After six votes in two days, House Republicans still do not have a consensus candidate for speaker, and 20 GOP holdouts remain opposed to Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for the job. One member of the group, Dan Bishop of North Carolina, went so far as to say he would resign from Congress if they are unsuccessful in their effort to bring about institutional change in the House – which they do not trust McCarthy to deliver.
‘We’re going to either see improvement up here the same way we made remarkable improvements in North Carolina in the state legislature, or I’m out,’ Bishop told Roll Call in an interview published early Thursday morning. He said that over McCarthy’s 14-year tenure in Republican leadership, the would-be speaker has said the same things over and over again about threats facing the country and ‘every one of them has gotten worse, not better.’
He later said it was not a threat to resign if McCarthy ultimately wins the speakership. ‘I will serve my term with all the force and vigor in me,’ he tweeted.
As someone who is ‘older than the average bear’ and ‘not going to stay up here for decades,’ Bishop told Roll Call he has no qualms about adopting a ‘never Kevin’ position in the ongoing leadership fight.
Such is the opposition the majority of the Republican conference faces as they struggle to find 218 votes for the next House speaker. McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes in his quest for the speaker’s gavel, and not even the urging of former President Trump for Republicans to rally behind him was enough to change minds.
Until a speaker is elected, House Republicans cannot conduct business – they are not even sworn in – and their campaign promises to serve as a check and balance on the Biden administration on day one hang in limbo. The last time a speaker vote failed was in 1923.
McCarthy’s leadership team engaged in negotiations with the holdouts overnight. The anti-McCarthy block says they want rule changes that would open up the legislative process by allowing rank-and-file members to add floor amendments to major bills, as well as conservative representation on powerful House committees and a lower threshold to trigger the process to remove a speaker.
A GOP aide confirmed to Fox News that McCarthy is weighing these concessions. However, a sticking point is that many of the holdouts like Bishop simply do not trust McCarthy to follow through on the promises he makes.
Reps.-elect Bob Good, R-Va., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Eli Crane, R-Ariz., Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., are firmly in the ‘never Kevin’ camp, though they have yet to throw their support behind a viable alternative. That is already enough to block McCarthy from becoming speaker without Democratic support or members of the House voting ‘present,’ which would lower the threshold McCarthy needs to win.
On the other side, many of the 200 or so Republicans backing McCarthy are growing increasingly angry with the holdouts – Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, called them ‘terrorists’ and Rep.-elect Don Bacon, R-Neb., referred to them as the ‘Taliban 19’ – and say they will never support any candidate they favor.
Adding to the intrigue are Democrats floating the possibility of throwing their support behind a ‘unity candidate’ who would doubtlessly be to McCarthy’s left. But they are unlikely to enter into any coalition agreement unless Republicans agree to major concessions, such as keeping Democrats in charge of key House committees or nerfing the GOP’s subpoena powers to stymie promised investigations into the Biden administration.
The House is expected to begin its seventh vote on Thursday as McCarthy has failed to secure the votes six total times: three times on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The most he received came on Tuesday with 203 votes.
Twenty Republicans are standing in McCarthy’s way to the speakership, with most of them being members of the House Freedom Caucus. One of the preferred candidates for the 20 representatives is Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has said he isn’t interested and announced his support for McCarthy.
During the last three rounds of voting, Republicans put up Rep.-elect Byron Donalds, R-Fla., as an alternative, but he never gained more than 20 votes.
Before adjourning Thursday, McCarthy indicated some progress had been made in these ongoing discussions.
‘I crawl before I walk, I walk before I run,’ McCarthy said Wednesday. ‘I felt as though we had a very good discussion.’
Fox News’ Elizabeth Pritchett contributed to this report.