This week was supposed to a be a no-brainer for Kevin McCarthy. But his expected easy path to become the next House speaker has been complicated in a big way by Republicans' performance in the midterms, reports NBC News. Most still expect Republicans to retake control of the House when all the vote counting is finally done, though by a much smaller margin than originally anticipated, notes the Wall Street Journal. That means McCarthy would not be able to afford many defections in the vote for the next House speaker—and the conservative House Freedom Caucus already is threatening to torpedo his chances unless they win concessions from him.
Whoever becomes speaker will need the magic number of 218 votes—a majority of the full House. And "no one currently has 218," says GOP Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus. Fellow caucus member Bob Good went further: "I have personally stated that Kevin McCarthy has not done anything to earn my vote,” he said, adding that McCarthy has not shown "the demonstrated fight that we're looking for" and that he expects a challenge to his leadership. However, as Politico notes, nobody has yet emerged to challenge McCarthy, and "how real of a rebellion the Freedom Caucus can muster" remains an open question. It may depend on the final makeup of the next House—the New York Times currently has Republicans up 211-194, with lots of races still not called.
Among other things, the caucus wants McCarthy to reinstate a rule that would make it easier to oust any speaker with a vote, though McCarthy is opposed because he thinks it would allow Democrats to wreak political havoc in the chamber. As all this plays out, McCarthy says he is confident not only that Republicans will indeed retake the House but that he will be the next speaker. CNN reports that McCarthy is expected to easily clear the first hurdle toward that goal next week, by winning a bare majority for his party's nomination to be speaker. The floor vote in which he would need a majority of the full House would not take place until January—assuming Republicans do indeed win the chamber. (Read more Kevin McCarthy stories.)