Conservatives in U.S. House tank McCarthy bid to be speaker on multiple ballots

Nebraska delegation backs McCarthy

By: and - January 3, 2023 2:13 pm

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., lost the first vote for House speaker on Tuesday Jan. 3, 2023. Photo taken June 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Bacon says ‘huge majority’ should prevail in speaker selection

OMAHA — U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who supports U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker, said Tuesday that the GOP caucus cannot let hardliners keep pushing them around, because the holdouts are hurting the GOP and the conservative political agenda.

Bacon said last month that he would be willing, if necessary to govern, to work with moderate House Democrats to elect a Republican Speaker of the House, saying he would not let a loud GOP minority risk GOP leadership and national stability.

“I don’t agree with Kevin on some key issues, but that’s true to some extent with anyone,” Bacon said. “I do know this: He got 85% of (the) vote a month ago and now has around 94% of (the) vote. We all should coalesce around what the huge majority wants. That’s how successful teams work.”

Bacon said McCarthy’s only announced opponent, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, missed a forum where candidates for speaker could make their case and take questions. Five House members have said they’re willing to fight a McCarthy speakership, even if it means the election of a Democratic speaker, if their specific concessions are not met, he said.

“It hurts us with the public,” Bacon told the Nebraska Examiner. “We can’t allow the few to dominate the 222 members.”

Bacon faced criticism of his own in a Daily Caller column Monday from Chris Chappelear, a member of the Nebraska Republican Party’s State Central Committee.

Chappelear said it was a “step too far” for a Republican congressman to threaten to side with Democrats to select a GOP speaker. He said House Democrats wouldn’t elect a Republican speaker. Bacon, he said, is discussing an action that would split Republicans, too, and risk the majority.

“Bacon, and any Republican that goes along with his plan for a Democrat-backed, moderate speaker, has to know that they can expect a primary challenger for just floating the idea, let alone if they actually follow through with it,” Chappelear wrote.

Bacon said House Republicans cannot be “held captive by a small number” and risk not getting done what voters sent them to do. The complaint here, he said, should be with the faction that refuses to work with the rest of the GOP caucus, including some who said they don’t care if it results in a Democratic speaker.

“They are putting our majority in the House at risk,” Bacon said in a text. “My point is that if a few won’t be part of the 218 members we need to govern, we’ll then find other ways to get to 218!”

All three members of Nebraska’s House delegation back McCarthy. Republican Reps. Mike Flood and Adrian Smith sent tweets of support before heading to the floor, and their staffs confirmed Tuesday that they remain supportive.

Flood called McCarthy “the leader we need” and said he’d be willing to “stay here all night” to vote for McCarthy. Smith said that McCarthy has always “supported the Republican team” and that he is “honored” to support him Tuesday.

Aaron Sanderford, Nebraska Examiner

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.

Ashley Murray
Ashley Murray

Ashley Murray covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include domestic policy and appropriations.