Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy won the Republicans' designation for House speaker on Tuesday, but questions remain over his ability to lock up the spot on the floor in January.

McCarthy, R-Calif., beat back a challenge by more conservative elements in the House Republican Conference represented by Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona. The final vote tally was 188-31.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy talks in Pennsylvania

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks about Republicans' "Commitment to America" agenda at DMI Companies in Monongahela, Pa., Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.  (AP Photo/Barry Reeger)

Most of Biggs’ support came from members of the hard line House Freedom Caucus. Biggs had previously chaired the group, which counts more than two dozen House Republicans among its membership, between 2019 and 2022. 


McCarthy, meanwhile, was able to assemble a large cross-section of the House GOP conference behind his candidacy. That included conservative hardliners like Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and centrists like Rep. Brian FitzPatrick of Pennsylvania.

But the number of people who opposed him could cause trouble.

"Losing 31 means he is in serious danger of not having the votes in January which would mean he’d need to drop out either that day or he could decide to before," said a senior aide to GOP leadership. "At that point, others would pounce."

Andy Biggs

((AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin,File))

To become speaker in January, McCarthy will need at least 218 votes if the entire 435-member House is seated and voting. 


Currently, the potential Republican majority looks to be anywhere between 218 seats, the bare minimum needed to control the House, and 228 seats. The latter would constitute a sweep of all outstanding races, including some in which Democrats are favored, but still falls far short of the 60 seats McCarthy predicted could be possible under a GOP wave that never materialized.

Other Republican conference elections were also held Tuesday. Incumbent GOP Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., was elected unopposed by voice vote to the post of House majority leader during next Congress. Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, the outgoing chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was elected to replace Scalise as whip. Incumbent House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik was reelected to her position after a spirited challenge from Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla.