Biggs renews challenge to McCarthy amid lack of consensus alternative
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday renewed his challenge against House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for Speaker as McCarthy’s opponents aim to keep him from securing the gavel on the House floor but lack a viable alternative.
“I’m running for Speaker to break the establishment,” Biggs, a former chairman of the confrontational conservative House Freedom Caucus, said in a tweet on Tuesday alongside a Daily Caller op-ed railing against McCarthy’s leadership. “Kevin McCarthy was created by, elevated by, and maintained by the establishment.”
Biggs’s office told The Hill on Tuesday that despite the tweet and op-ed, he is still open to and interested in an alternative Speaker candidate. In the meantime, though, Biggs is keeping himself in the running, and said last week that he plans to vote for himself on the House floor.
Biggs, who mounted a last-minute, long-shot challenge to McCarthy for a House GOP Speaker nomination vote last month, has said he thinks a more “consensus” alternative to McCarthy will emerge before the Speakership vote.
Tensions over opposition to McCarthy escalated in a Tuesday conference meeting with McCarthy’s allies speaking up to tell critics to get behind the GOP leader and not hurt the whole team, according to Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a more moderate member.
Bacon said Tuesday that he has talked “a little bit” with House Democrats about the possibility of working together to find an alternative to McCarthy the Speaker if he fails multiple ballots.
“If we have multiple, multiple votes, and they’re not willing to support what the far majority of the conference wants to do. We’re not gonna be held hostage by ‘em,” Bacon said while walking out of the meeting.
McCarthy won the House GOP Speakership nomination over Biggs in a 188 to 31 secret ballot vote the week after the midterm election. But McCarthy needs to win a majority of those voting for a Speakership candidate on Jan. 3 to secure the gavel. With Republicans heading into the new Congress with just a slim majority of 222 to 212 and one vacancy, opposition to McCarthy from five members could put him below the threshold to be Speaker.
And along with Biggs, four other House Republicans — Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (Mont.) — have explicitly said or strongly indicated that they will vote for an alternative candidate on the floor.
Those in support of McCarthy point out the lack of a viable alternative means that McCarthy is still the favorite to be Speaker.
Biggs threw out Rep. Mike Johnson (La.), currently House GOP vice chairman, as a possible alternative. But Johnson is supporting McCarthy.
A report that some Democrats floated outgoing moderate Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) as a possible Speaker prompted a rebuke from former President Trump over the weekend. Upton voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.
Others withholding support for McCarthy, like Rep. Chip Roy (Texas), also recognize that a hard-line Republican cannot win the Speakership. Roy has advocated for changing House rules to give more power to rank-and-file members but has not said how he plans to vote on Jan. 3.
“No one that I’m talking to, and certainly myself, believes that we’re gonna get Speaker, you know, Chip Roy, or frankly, Speaker Andy Biggs,” Roy said on “The Ben Domenech podcast” on Monday.