(WASHINGTON) — House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday clinched the Republican nomination for speaker in the next Congress, multiple sources told ABC News, as the California lawmaker succeeded in a key early vote on the path to holding the gavel.
The sources said McCarthy received 188 votes in the GOP’s leadership elections, conducted behind closed doors via secret ballot from the incoming class of lawmakers. That compares to 31 for Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. (Representatives who lost in the midterms couldn’t vote in Tuesday’s leadership elections, but those in still-uncalled races could vote.)
Biggs challenged McCarthy amid frustration from some conservatives over a disappointing midterm cycle for the party.
Top Republicans including McCarthy had boasted of delivering sprawling House and Senate majorities in last week’s midterm elections, but Republicans are instead looking at razor-thin control of the House, while Democrats retained the Senate.
McCarthy only needed a majority of his conference to vote for him to secure the nomination on Tuesday. He will need 218 votes in the whole chamber on Jan. 3 to be elected speaker of the House if Republicans take the majority.
In the days leading up to Tuesday’s vote, some members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus threw their support behind McCarthy despite a former chair of their group, Biggs, mounting a long-shot bid against him.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., backed McCarthy on Steve Bannon’s podcast on Monday, saying she thought it was “bad strategy” for the Freedom Caucus to mount a challenge to McCarthy since Republicans are likely to have a thin majority.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, also told reporters ahead of Tuesday’s vote that he supported McCarthy and is eyeing the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee.
While Biggs drew nearly three dozen votes of his own, McCarthy’s margin in Tuesday’s vote indicates he is headed for the speakership — though he will have to win back those defections by January’s vote in the House.
“Every five people is essentially a veto now. That means that it’s probably not going to be Kevin McCarthy as speaker, because there are five of us would not want to see him,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said on Charlie Kirk’s show prior to the vote. “It is probably not going to be somebody like Jim Jordan, who I would prefer, because there are probably five people who don’t like him. So, we’ve got to go down the list of the Republicans and see who could actually unite a conference.”
Republicans on Tuesday also rounded out their top three leadership positions during a closed-door vote should they clinch the House majority.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the current House minority whip, was elected via a voice vote as Republican majority leader should the GOP take control of the House.
Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, who served as the National Republican Congressional Committee chair for the midterms, won a hotly contested whip race despite Republicans having a lackluster showing this cycle, beating Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Drew Ferguson of Georgia.
Emmer will be the third-ranking House Republican.
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