EXCLUSIVE: With Speaker Vote One Day Away, McCarthy Struggles To Corral Holdouts

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With less than 24 hours before the 118th Congress gavels in, a small group of House Republicans are still pledging to kill a Kevin McCarthy speakership in the cradle.

With 222 Republican representatives, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy can afford only four defections. Five Republicans are maintaining opposition to him, and nine others have signaled that the Californian’s rule change promises are insufficient to earn their support. McCarthy’s concession, which would allow any five members to present a motion remove the speaker, has not swayed his opponents, although it has frustrated some of his moderate supporters. Under current rules, only the majority or minority leader can introduce a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair.

“Even after the McCarthy Machine’s attempts to whip votes and smear my name for several weeks, McCarthy is still well short of the 218 threshold,” Republican Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, who is challenging McCarthy for the gavel, told the Daily Caller. “Our party still requires new leadership and I will continue to oppose McCarthy on Jan. 3.” (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: McCarthy’s Speaker Bid Struggles To Combat ‘Unnecessary Chaos’)

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JULY 24: Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs speaks during the Rally To Protect Our Elections conference on July 24, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Thirty-one members and members-elect voted for Biggs in a November full-conference vote, but McCarthy and his team still have not contacted all of Biggs’ supporters. At least one member who cast a ballot for Biggs has not been whipped, according to a source with direct knowledge of the effort. This member has publicly supported or opposed McCarthy.

McCarthy’s office declined to comment for this story.

Following a Sunday afternoon House Republican Conference call, McCarthy released a rules package that the House would vote on if it elects him Speaker. Although some proposals, such as requiring all spending increases to be offset with cuts and instituting a minimum of three days for members to read legislation, command widespread support, the rules would also set the motion-to-vacate threshold at five votes. That provision has reportedly caused significant concern among McCarthy’s supporters, who worry that the constant threat of removal could cripple the lower chamber.

“In the GOP, our individualism is our greatest asset, but it can also be our greatest challenge. Politics is about compromise and meeting people halfway. In the end, I’m optimistic we’ll have a successful outcome for our party,” North Carolina Rep. Greg Murphy told the Caller when asked about the proposed rules package.

In addition to the five “hard no” votes, nine more Republicans released a letter describing the rule changes as “com[ing] almost impossibly late to address continued deficiencies.” One of the “hard no” votes, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, met with Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert and letter-signer Pennsylvania Rep. Scott Perry, as well as some of the Californian’s supporters on Monday night.

We may be on the verge of a New Year’s miracle,” Gaetz told reporters.

No speaker vote has gone to a second ballot since 1923, when the lower chamber took three days and nine votes to elect Republican Massachusetts Rep. Frederick Gillett to the speakership. The 1855 Speaker vote it took 133 ballots and more than three months before Native American Party Rep. Nathaniel Banks emerged victorious.

McCarthy’s GOP opponents will vote for Biggs on the first ballot in an effort to deny the party leader the speakership, Virginia Rep. Bob Good told Fox News on Monday, and will support an unnamed candidate on the second ballot. For his part, McCarthy is pledging to stand for the speakership for as many ballots as necessary, and his supporters have said they will continue to back him until he wins.

“When negotiations started in November, Leader McCarthy didn’t have the votes. Now just hours before the election, he still doesn’t have the votes,” a senior GOP staffer told the Caller. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Bob Good Says Republicans ‘Got Rolled’ In Midterms, Blames Kevin McCarthy At Conference Meeting)

Outside conservative organizations have also begun to weigh in on the race. The Club for Growth announced Monday that it would score members’ votes based on whether or not a speaker candidate supports certain reforms, while Citizens for Renewing America is opposing McCarthy.

“Kevin McCarthy is the essence of the uniparty swamp, where two parties pretend to oppose each other, offer show votes to demonstrate theoretical differences of opinion, but then always work together to advance and fund the woke and weaponized government leviathan that is leading the way in destroying our communities through the direct funding of incremental cultural Marxism,” Citizens for Renewing America Executive Director Wade Miller told the Caller.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to remove a reference to Texas Rep. Troy Nehls’ vote in the November Republican Conference meeting. Nehls supported McCarthy, not Biggs.