Three weeks ago, Conservative Representative Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., was defeated by GOP leader Kevin McCarthy in their party’s closed, internal vote for Speaker of the House.
On Tuesday, Biggs said he is once again challenging McCarthy for speaker — this time during the public vote on the House floor scheduled for Jan. 3.
“I’m running for Speaker to break the establishment,” Biggs tweeted, referring to an op-ed in the conservative Daily Caller outlining his opposition to McCarthy. “Kevin McCarthy was created by, elevated by, and maintained by the establishment.”
The point of Biggs’s second bid for speaker in as many months isn’t to win the coveted gavel — the former leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus has no chance of winning over moderate Republicans who have clashed with his group in the past .
Instead, Biggs is trying to give his colleagues an alternative to vote for on the House floor and deny McCarthy the 218 GOP votes he needs to secure the gavel on the first ballot of the new Congress next month .
“People are excited that Chairman Nancy Pelosi’s left-wing extremism is coming to an end. The question is whether we will be treated to the status quo that will put us on the same path, albeit more slowly,” Biggs wrote in his op-ed. “Shall we choose an established Republican as speaker – think Paul Ryan, or in this case Ryan’s right-hand man, Kevin McCarthy.”
Republicans flipped control of the lower chamber during the November midterms, but since they will only have a razor-thin margin over the Democrats, McCarthy can only afford to lose four GOP votes at the January 3 roll call.
Democrats are expected to support their own leader as speaker, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., and five conservative lawmakers have already stated that they will not vote for McCarthy under any circumstances.
A McCarthy spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But allies of the California Republican have vowed McCarthy will take the fight to the House floor rather than abandon his quest to become speaker, as he did in 2015, when the same group of conservative agitators threatened his first speaker bid.
If Biggs and other conservatives can successfully block McCarthy from 218 votes — more than half of the chamber’s total of 435 seats — it could throw the House into complete chaos. Since business in the House essentially grinds to a halt until lawmakers choose a speaker, members will have to vote over and over again until someone gets a simple majority of the vote.
The last time a speaker voted was exactly a century ago. For a two-month period before the Civil War, the House was deadlocked on a speaker choice, ultimately taking 133 votes before settling on Rep. Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts.
Some moderate GOP McCarthy allies say it will never reach that point. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., told NBC News last month that to avoid potential chaos, he would be willing to cross the aisle and work with Democrats to elect a consensus moderate GOP speaker.
Bacon reiterated his threat to conservative “cowboys” during an appearance on C-SPAN on Tuesday, saying they are “dividing the team, weakening the team” at a time when Republicans need to unite.
“I’m one of those people who play hard back. We don’t let ourselves be held hostage by a small number of people who are going to hurt the team,” said Bacon. “So we’re going to oppose this.”
In his op-ed on Tuesday, Biggs attacked McCarthy for his talks with the White House about a year-end spending package that would “swell and extend our national debt into October next year.” In closing a deal before Republicans take control of the House in January, Biggs argued, “Leader McCarthy is about to exert our influence on the balance of the Biden presidency.”
Biggs, former chairman of the Donald Trump-aligned Freedom Caucus, also slammed McCarthy for proposing a resolution to reprimand the former president for his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and for initially defending then-GOP conference chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., after she voted to impeach Trump.
McCarthy later called on Cheney to resign as leader and supported her Trump-backed primary challenger, Harriet Hageman, who ousted Cheney in the GOP primary in August.
“Here we have an established candidate for Speaker of the House who circulated a Trump disapproval resolution and protected Liz Cheney when the majority of Republicans sought to remove her as their leader,” Biggs wrote of McCarthy. “It wasn’t until she personally embarrassed him that McCarthy supported her dismissal.”
Another Freedom Caucus member and McCarthy foe, Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., has said it’s time for Republicans to turn the page on McCarthy and move on to other candidates.
“It is in the interest of Congress and the country [colleagues] to come out publicly to illustrate or demonstrate that he will not be a speaker,” Good told reporters. “He doesn’t have the votes to get to 218; he’s not going to make it to 218.
“The number of public hard ‘no’ votes will only continue to increase,” he said.