WASHINGTON – Kevin McCarthy of California has been elected House speaker, taking the gavel for a new GOP majority eager to confront President Biden.
Prior, supporters continued working to win over a couple of GOP holdouts after four days of voting and the most rounds of ballots for a House speaker since before the Civil War.
The six have been critical of McCarthy, though about-faces are not uncommon in Washington. Even if some voted present, it would have given McCarthy the margin he needed to win.
A look at the holdouts:
— Andy Biggs of Arizona is the former chairman of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus. He not only challenged McCarthy during an initial, internal GOP vote for House speaker, but he was also a nominee himself in the first round of voting Tuesday. He won only 10 votes.
Biggs was reelected to a fourth term in the House after serving 14 years in the Arizona Legislature. In Congress, he's built a reputation as a staunch supporter of Donald Trump and as a border enforcement hawk, filing articles of impeachment in the last Congress against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. McCarthy took up the cause in his push to become House speaker, saying that if Mayorkas didn’t resign, GOP-led investigations could lead to impeachment proceedings.
Biggs was also one of four lawmakers referred to the House Ethics Committee after they defied subpoenas from the House panel that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
— Matt Gaetz of Florida has been perhaps McCarthy's most strident critic, to the point that Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill, jumped up and chided Gaetz on the House floor for his harsh denunciations of McCarthy during Friday's debate. Gaetz has consistently depicted McCarthy as a Washington insider, calling McCarthy “the LeBron James of special interest fundraising in this town."
Gaetz is a close ally of Trump who broke with him early when it comes to McCarthy. The House Ethics Committee announced an investigation into Gaetz in April as federal prosecutors probed sex trafficking allegations against him. Gaetz has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
“If you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise,” Gaetz said of McCarthy.
— Lauren Boebert of Colorado is another Trump loyalist who established herself as a partisan rabble-rouser in Washington during her first term. She won a second term this year in a race that was much closer than expected, as her aggressive use of social media and willingness to engage in personal feuds was put to the test against a Democratic challenger who presented himself as a nonpartisan problem solver.
Boebert noted this week that “her favorite president,” a reference to Trump, has called on the anti-McCarthy holdouts to “knock this off,” but suggested an alternative.
“I think it actually needs to be reversed. The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy, ‘Sir, you do not have the votes and it’s time to withdraw,’” she said.
— Bob Good of Virginia won office in 2020 after GOP voters ousted the Republican incumbent, Denver Riggleman, who had angered social conservatives by officiating a gay marriage.
Good, a former athletics official at evangelical Liberty University, was one of the first to say he would be opposing McCarthy, and that opposition continued into Friday when he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times declaring that he won't back down.
“Throughout this process, one thing has become clear: Kevin McCarthy has failed to secure the trust of the entire Republican conference to be the leader who will fight to change the status quo in Washington. It is time for Republicans to move on," Good wrote.
— Matt Rosendale of Montana is entering his second term in the House and says his constituents are lobbying him to change the leadership in Congress. He has backed former Trump’s false statements about fraud in the 2020 election and recently voted against U.S. support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, citing what he said are more pressing security needs along the southern border.
“I’ve said all along I’m not going to be supporting anyone for speaker that has played a part in the leadership team that has managed the demise of our country over the last 10 years,” Rosendale said.
— Eli Crane of Utah is a former Navy SEAL who went on five wartime deployments and served for 13 years. In November, he defeated the Democratic incumbent, Tom O’Halleran, who had held the seat since 2017. He was the lone Republican freshman on Friday to refuse support for McCarthy.
Crane has run a small business turning spent machine gun ammunition into bottle openers and had the endorsement of Trump. He focused his campaign on securing the U.S.-Mexico border and election integrity.