Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy may have his party's nomination to be the next speaker of the House, but that does not mean he has enough votes to win the job.
A handful of conservatives in the House of Representatives have announced that they will not vote for McCarthy to be speaker in January, when the 118th Congress will begin its first session. With only six House races left uncalled, Republicans are looking at a slim majority that would make McCarthy vulnerable to losing the speaker election if he fails to win every vote from the Republican conference.
The GOP currently holds 218 seats – the minimum to claim a majority of the House and the number of votes needed to become House speaker. They are projected to hold anywhere from 220 to 224, meaning McCarthy can't afford to lose more than two to six votes in his conference in the speaker's race.
In the nomination vote this week, McCarthy fell more than 30 votes shy of his 218 target to become speaker.
As it stands, there are three Republican members who have publicly stated that they will not support McCarthy: Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
Biggs, who unsuccessfully challenged McCarthy for the speaker nomination this week, laid out his reasons for opposing McCarthy in an op-ed for American Greatness.
"The Republicans in Congress have decided it’s better to cling to the status quo than to make change," Biggs wrote Thursday. "I was told in 2020 that we were in the minority and shouldn’t make changes to our leadership. This year, I was told we would have a ‘red wave’ gaining 25 seats or more, so we wouldn’t want to change our leader, that our leaders earned the right to lead again.
"Now I am told that we will barely have a three-seat majority, so we must not change leaders in order to protect unity," he continued. "I disagree."
His op-ed was shared by Gaetz, who claimed that McCarthy is "threatening and pressuring incoming freshmen House members to vote for him" and said, "We have the votes to force a change."
Rosendale separately wrote on Twitter that he believes a leadership change is necessary to reduce the power of the speaker and open up the legislative process so backbenchers can have more of a say.
"Each Member of Congress has earned and deserves equal participation in the legislative process. That will only happen if the House returns to the rules that governed this legislative body before Nancy Pelosi took control. Kevin McCarthy isn’t willing to make those changes," Rosendale tweeted Wednesday.
"He wants to maintain the status quo, which consolidates power into his hands and a small group of individuals he personally selects. We need a leader who can stand up to a Democrat-controlled Senate and President Biden, and unfortunately, that isn’t Kevin McCarthy," he added.
The hardline conservatives in the House believe they have an upper hand with McCarthy and can leverage their votes for speaker to draw out concessions and promises from him.
Rules changes to House procedure are the most consistent demands from Freedom Caucus members. Several lawmakers who spoke to Fox News said they want a return to regular order in the House, which would require every single piece of major legislation to be debated and voted in committee before heading to the House floor.
Freedom Caucus members say a return to regular order is especially important on budget and appropriations bills. Congress in recent years has seen such bills assembled on the floor by leadership and passed with limited debate. In some cases, House leaders have even voted to suspend normal operating procedures to expedite legislation.
They also want a rule that would require all legislation to be made available to read for more than 72 hours before a vote; a ban on tying unrelated bills together and passed en bloc; more representation on top House committees, including the important House Rules Committee; and a dramatic rules change that would end the House speaker's ability to appoint the committee chairman and instead allow a panel's individual members to vote on that position.
There's little chance that House leadership would agree to these changes under normal circumstances, but the conservatives are emboldened by the slim GOP majority and believe that now is the time to force change.
Fox News' Haris Alic contributed to this report.