Kevin McCarthy has the full support of the GOP Central Valley delegation in his quest to become Speaker of the House.
Starting on Tuesday at 9 a.m. Pacific Time, the 118th Congress convenes at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. The first order of business, before members are ceremonially sworn in, is to select the Speaker.
If he wins the battle for the gavel, McCarthy would become the first Speaker from the San Joaquin Valley — and just the second from California — in the 234-year history of Congress. As Speaker, he would be well-positioned to help the Valley address its many challenges.
There has been much speculation about whether McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, will ascend to the spot held now by Democrat Nancy Pelosi. He has been Minority Leader since 2019, the top leadership post in the Republican caucus.
McCarthy also eyed the Speaker’s post in 2015 but stepped aside when it became apparent he didn’t have sufficient support to prevail.
McCarthy Must Overcome Far-Right Resistance
While it has been presumed that McCarthy would become Speaker, a handful of Republicans aren’t on board with his candidacy. Most of his GOP detractors are aligned with the Freedom Caucus.
They say he isn’t “conservative enough.” And, they want reinstatement of an old House rule allowing any lawmaker to file a motion to “vacate the chair” — essentially allowing a floor vote to boot the Speaker from office.
McCarthy doesn’t have these challenges with House Republicans representing the Central Valley. David Valadao, R-Hanford, and freshman John Duarte, R-Modesto, have publicly declared support for McCarthy.
Nathan Rakich of FiveThirtyEight reported that Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, will also support McCarthy.
The small but vocal opposition to McCarthy has fueled a counter-offensive by his supporters. For example, Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, has taken to wearing an “O.K.” button on his lapel — meaning “Only Kevin.”
Costa Will Back Jeffries
On the other side of the aisle, Fresno Democrat Jim Costa plans to vote for Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York.
“He and Jeffries have spoken about the needs in the Valley, including water, ag, transportation, and health care, and Jim has invited him to visit the Valley,” said Costa’s district representative, Kathy Mahan.
After Democrats lost control of the House in the November elections, Pelosi, D-San Francisco, announced she would step down from her leadership post on Tuesday.
Speaker Needs Majority, but Not Necessarily 218
The new House lineup has 222 Republicans, and 212 Democrats (one seat is vacant after the death of Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Virginia). A majority would be 218, meaning McCarthy could afford to lose four votes.
However, the majority is calculated by those actually voting for a nominee.
Thus the majority is reduced if a member votes “present.” In 2021, Pelosi received 216 votes, with six members voting “present” or not voting. In theory, McCarthy could lose nine GOP votes if they voted “present.” That would drop him down to 213. As long as it is one more than the Democrats’ choice — presumably Jeffries — McCarthy would be Speaker.
The House continues to vote on a Speaker until a majority is achieved. The vote is taken with each member voicing their choice one at a time. In 2021, the process took more than two hours to record the votes.
The all-time record for Speaker votes — 133 in 1855 — came in the run-up to the Civil War. It took two months of voting.
A great overview of the ins and outs of Speaker elections can be found here.
The complete list of Speakers is at this link.