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Deal with conservative holdouts could get McCarthy closer to 218 for speaker, but obstacles remain

"The devil is in the details, and we'll take our time to ensure it's right, not easy," wrote House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry Thursday evening. "One way or another, the status quo must go."

Published: January 5, 2023 9:25pm

Updated: January 6, 2023 11:45am

Following 11 rounds of voting on the House floor for speaker, a deal with some conservative holdouts opposing House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has reportedly been reached, which would get him closer to a simple majority to become speaker — but he might still come up short.

Not all of the GOP holdouts have signed on to the agreement. 

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a House Freedom Caucus member, confirmed that the deal is in writing and under review.

"We're at a Reagan moment — 'trust but verify,'" wrote House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry on Twitter Thursday evening. "The devil is in the details, and we'll take our time to ensure it's right, not easy. One way or another, the status quo must go."

Among the 20 conservative members that have been voting against McCarthy are lawmakers who have put themselves in the the "Never Kevin" camp, such as Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz. He has pledged to oppose McCarthy regardless of the concessions the California Republican makes. 

"Kevin McCarthy has offered everything he can think to offer and everything we can think to ask for due to his current state of desperation, and I can't tell you whether or not that will be enough to get him there," said Gaetz. "I doubt it will."

If he fails to win over enough recalcitrant conservatives, McCarthy would then have to rely on members voting present or not showing up to vote in order to win a simple majority.

So far, McCarthy's concessions include changes to the rules governing the appropriations process that would allow amendments on the floor from any member regardless of the committees they sit on, a vote on term limits for members of Congress, and two seats for House Freedom Caucus members on the House Rules Committee.

He has agreed to allow one member to motion for a vote to oust a speaker, lowering the threshold from five.

In addition, the Congressional Leadership Fund, the independent super PAC endorsed by McCarthy, agreed to "not spend in any open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts" or "grant resources to other super PAC's [sic] to do so," according to a statement from the group. 

Ohio GOP Rep. Warren Davidson said Thursday evening that "there are signs of hope that we are coming to a deal." 

Florida GOP Rep. Byron Donalds has been receiving votes for speaker from conservatives in the GOP conference. Davidson was asked about the possibility of Donalds having a leadership role in the new Congress.

"There's a lot of hope for Byron in the future that he's got in the party," Davidson said. "I don't know if it really comes down to any one person. There was also a lot of hope that Jim Jordan would be a higher ranking person, but Jim has made it clear: He wants to lead the judiciary committee."

Donalds' office did not return a request for comment before press time.

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