Kevin McCarthy moves to protect potential free speech


House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is moving quickly to lock down votes for the speaker as a hard-right wing of his caucus. GOP sources.

McCarthy spoke privately with his closest advisers and confidants in a phone call Wednesday morning, hours after his party appeared on track to take the House. But it fell short of their best expectations A major GOP landslide. GOP lawmakers vowed to “work hard to get him elected” as he tapped a caucus of California Republicans to help him get the 218 votes to win the speakership in January. A source familiar with the subject. Several associates were seen walking in and out of McCarthy’s office Wednesday as they hashed out their game plan and began executing.

But McCarthy’s easy ascension to the speakership will be determined by the size of the potential GOP majority. If McCarthy retains a narrow majority, the pro-Trump House Freedom Caucus could stand in the way of his leadership ambitions. CNN has yet to take over the Republican Party room.

A source familiar with the deliberations of the House Freedom Caucus told CNN Wednesday morning that there are about two dozen current and incoming members who are prepared to vote against McCarthy unless he makes concessions. They are actively discussing mounting a nominal challenge to McCarthy in next week’s leadership election, an effort to give the GOP leader more influence over how the House is run, the source said.

McCarthy sent a letter to the conference Wednesday afternoon officially announcing his bid for the speakership and asking for members’ support, according to a copy obtained by CNN.

Next week’s leadership election is the first step towards that. McCarthy needs to win most of his caucus’ support next week to be nominated for speaker before a January vote, when he needs 218 votes in the full House. The hope, the source said, is that if they support a challenger to McCarthy in next week’s elections, they will force California Republicans to cut a deal to secure their support in the January speaker race. A narrow Republican majority could cost the GOP a few votes.

The Freedom Caucus’s strategy will come into sharp focus by the end of the week as members weigh their options and incoming lawmakers arrive in Washington for initial meetings. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a McCarthy critic who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus but is closely associated with the group, began inviting members to talk strategy about the speaker’s race, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Among their demands: making it easier for individual members to call a vote to oust a sitting speaker, an idea McCarthy has long rejected and used on former Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio. The same source said the Freedom Caucus wants more representation on the select committee in committee assignments. They are calling on GOP leaders to slow down the legislative process and give more time to reconsider controversial bills.

Hardliners may also insist on promises to launch investigations and criminal proceedings against President Joe Biden or members of his cabinet.

Arizona Republican and former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, Rep. Andy Biggs told the right-wing streaming network that McCarthy’s speakership should not be a “foregone conclusion,” saying the red tide never appeared and accusing McCarthy of “backpedaling.” on the charge.

“McCarthy has a lot of chips to cash in,” a senior GOP source said. “But he has to pay for every one of them.”

McCarthy could win over detectors with plum committee assignments, green office space and other perks. Earlier on Tuesday, there was also talk of adding an additional leadership position to his team, which could also be used to woo critics.

McCarthy allies are citing former President Donald Trump’s Tuesday endorsement of the speaker’s custodianship as a boon to staunch Trump supporters at the House GOP caucus. Also, McCarthy has long moved to cultivate good standing with even the most embattled forces in the independence caucus and has been in talks for weeks with some members of the caucus about their role in the GOP majority, according to Republican sources.

Additionally, McCarthy’s allies believe Republicans will credit him for the hundreds of millions of dollars his outside group has raised and spent in key races. McCarthy has called out the winning GOP candidates and members since Tuesday night.

According to a source familiar with the matter, McCarthy’s pitch to members was relatively straight forward: The GOP picked up seats in two cycles in a row under his watch, and he’s on the verge of giving Republicans a majority — which would give them subpoena power. Allow them to serve as a check on the Biden administration.

While McCarthy’s allies say the GOP leader is willing to listen to members, they believe negotiating with members could become a slippery slope — though McCarthy has no choice but to depend on the margins.

McCarthy hoped to pick up at least 20 seats in both speaker races to give him a cushion and help push his agenda. It’s unclear if they can get there because many races are too early for CNN to call.

Aside from the speaker race, Tuesday’s underperformance for the GOP dwarfed other leadership races.

The race for House GOP whip — a position that opens only if Republicans win a majority — was already competitive, though Rep. Tom Emmer, who chairs the House GOP’s campaign committee, was seen as ahead as he is likely to be. Reward them if they have a strong night.

Now, Republicans say it will be difficult for Emmer to win.

Emmer told reporters on Tuesday that he still plans to run and that he doesn’t know if a small majority will hurt his bid. But his pitch to members is similar to McCarthy’s: “We delivered.”

Meanwhile, Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, a Trump ally and chair of the conservative Republican Study Group, officially announced his candidacy for whip. And incumbent Deputy Whip Georgia Rep. Drew Ferguson is also running for office, arguing that his experience on the whip team will be even more valuable in slim majorities, where the chief vote-counting job will be critical to governing.

This story has been updated with additional updates.

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