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HomeU.S"We're going to make progress today — we're going to shock you"

“We’re going to make progress today — we’re going to shock you”

Rep. Matt Gaetz talks to fellow House members during the second day voting on Wednesday.
Rep. Matt Gaetz talks to fellow House members during the second day voting on Wednesday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

It’s a very small minority of a slim majority that’s kept the House from moving forward and is on the cusp of derailing Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become speaker.

They don’t speak for the majority of Republicans. The 20 anti-McCarthy Republicans who so far derailed his bid to become House speaker represent less than 10% of the House GOP.

They aren’t the entirety of the Freedom Caucus. The hardliners are less than half the ultraconservative, ultra-MAGA wing of lawmakers.

They’re sort of gaining support. Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana became the 21st Republican member-elect to not support McCarthy starting on Wednesday, although she voted “present” rather than voting for anyone.

The hardliners also don’t speak with one voice.

“I think you need to break the 20 down,” the conservative Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado said on CNN on Wednesday. Buck had been viewed as a possible defector before this week, and he made clear that patience with these votes is waning.

He suggested McCarthy’s deputy, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, as a possible consensus speaker who could speak to three varieties of the 20 anti-McCarthy Republicans.

For some, it’s personal. “There are a few of those 20 that just aren’t going to vote for Kevin McCarthy but would vote for somebody else,” Buck said. The key question is whether that block of “never-McCarthy” House Republicans is larger than the four votes McCarthy can afford to lose.

Others want specific changes. “There are some of the others … who want changes in the rules and there are some others who care about policy,” Buck said. “So I think if Steve (Scalise) meets those three needs, he will be able to move forward and take the speakership.”

Some want to shut things down. Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina has said a non-negotiable for him is if McCarthy is “willing to shut the government down rather than raising the debt ceiling.” That suggests the kind of precarious future funding fights will pose to the economy.

These lawmakers want painful cuts now to end deficit spending. If the US was to default on its debt, it could send the US economy into a tailspin, according to most economists. A government shutdown would be less severe, but they have been unpopular when lawmakers forced them in recent years.

Some just don’t like McCarthy. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida issued a personal screed against McCarthy on Tuesday. “Maybe the right person for the speaker of the House isn’t someone who has sold shares in himself for more than a decade to get it,” Gaetz said, standing just in front of his target.

Bishop was less aggressive on CNN when he expressed the problem with McCarthy’s specific leadership.

“The fact is that you never see a specific agenda that you know Kevin McCarthy’s going to go to the mat for, as opposed to sort of pablum or poll-tested language, indicates the problem,” Bishop said. “And it’s been that way for all 14 years he’s been in leadership, with all due respect to him.”

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