Last Updated on December 19, 2022
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy continues to face significant challenges in his quest to again become Speaker of the House in January. At least five members of the Freedom Caucus have signaled that they will vote against McCarthy on January 3, while U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) has stated that there are at least 20 “no” votes. If McCarthy’s speaker bid completely stalls, a recent insider report stated that longtime GOP Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) could become the backup plan/compromise option. The eight-term congressman has stated that he is supporting McCarthy for Speaker, though Scalise has not ruled out the possibility if McCarthy’s bid deteriorates.
According to a report from the New York Post citing GOP insiders and staffers, Scalise is being looked at as a backup plan if the caucus’s “paper-thin” majority rejects McCarthy. “Our relationship is on the ascent,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gatez (R-FL), who has emerged as one of McCarthy’s most ardent detractors, said of Scalise. “No one ran against [Scalise] for Majority Leader. He was elected unanimously for that position,” Gaetz noted
Though a longtime friend of McCarthy, the Louisiana congressman is viewed as more conservative than Kevin McCarthy.
Scalise was previously shot and nearly killed by a far-left extremist during a Congressional GOP baseball practice in 2017. “Scalise is a party hero. He got shot. He’s a southerner. He’s more conservative than Kevin,” said one Freedom Caucus insider, according to the New York Post.
Though Scalise has stated that he is backing McCarthy for the position, and has previously signaled that he is not interested in the job, he has not ruled out the possibility of emerging as a compromise candidate if necessary. “I’m not going to get into speculation. Obviously, our focus is on getting it resolved by January 3rd. And there’s a lot of conversations that everybody has been having,” Scalise told CNN on December 6.
McCarthy can only afford four defections before his bid encounters significant trouble, and he is already facing that from a group becoming known as the “Freedom Caucus Five.”
Biggs, Gaetz and U.S. Reps. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Bob Good (R-VA) have all signaled opposition to McCarthy and have stated that they will not vote for him without significant changes to the current House rules package. The group of Freedom Caucus members have stated that they will vote together regardless of the outcome.
In addition to those five members, Biggs has stated that McCarthy could be looking at as many as 20 “no” votes on January 3.
“I can’t be for continuing with the status quo,” U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA,) who currently serves as chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told The New York Post. “One way or the other things are going to change. Either we change the way we do business here, or we’re going to change management. Both could happen.”