Republican leader Kevin McCarthy won the nomination for House speaker on Tuesday with the support of a majority of his colleagues; however, he now faces weeks of work to overcome objections from the right before a final vote in the new year.
McCarthy has led House Republicans to this point, and with the party on the verge of majority control, he has a chance to seize the gavel from Nancy Pelosi if the Democrats are defeated.
The internal party election was approved by a vote of 188-31, with votes cast by both new and returning lawmakers, but the challenges ahead are evident.
McCarthy will need the support of at least 218 members of his small caucus when the new Congress convenes in January, leaving him with few extra votes.
McCarthy said with a strained voice after the vote, "We've got our work cut out for us."
The Californian noted that previous speakers fell short in initial voting but ultimately won the gavel, and he has cited the support of right-wing Republicans Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as an example of his "vast support."
"Either we will lead as a team or we will lose as individuals," he stated.
However, Republican leaders are facing an intense backlash on Capitol Hill as a result of their disappointing performance in the midterm elections, when McCarthy's predictions of a GOP landslide that would transform Washington failed to materialize.
In contrast, the House could have one of its narrowest majorities in the last ninety years, leaving McCarthy vulnerable to challengers and jeopardizing his ability to govern.
The fallout is spreading to other Republican leadership contests and the Senate, where Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will face a challenge on Wednesday from GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the party's campaign chairman.
Andy Biggs, the former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, was unsuccessful in his challenge to McCarthy.
He continued to insist that his speakership "should not be a foregone conclusion" and stated that five votes went to neither candidate, an indication of McCarthy's widespread opposition.
Tuesday evening at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, Donald Trump is expected to announce his candidacy for the White House in 2024. Many members of the Republican Party attribute their losses to Trump.
The former president supported hundreds of candidates, the majority of whom were far-right candidates rejected by the electorate.
McCarthy's leadership was questioned along with that of his teammates. Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minnesota, defeated Trump ally Rep. Jim Banks, R-Indiana, after the second round of voting in a three-way race for the GOP whip position. Emmer was the campaign chairman who would have traditionally been rewarded with a leadership position.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana had an easier time, winning the position of majority leader by voice vote without opposition. Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina will also lead the National Republican Congressional Committee without opposition.
And one of Trump's top allies in the House, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York — the party's conference chairwoman and the first lawmaker to back Trump in a 2024 run — prevailed in a close race against Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida.
Many view Donalds, a self-described "Trump-supporting, liberty-loving, pro-life, and pro-Second Amendment Black man," as a potential new party leader.
Trump supports McCarthy for speaker, but the two have a tumultuous relationship, and even Trump's backing is no guarantee McCarthy will win the required 218 votes when the new Congress convenes, especially if Republicans win the House with a slim, few-seat majority that would leave him with no cushion for opponents.
One Trump ally, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, opposes McCarthy and predicts he will fail, as he did in the past.
Gaetz stated, "To believe that Kevin will become speaker, you must believe that he will move votes in the next six weeks that he could not move in the last six years."
Greene, who is "proud" of McCarthy for listening to all lawmakers, stated that "it is crucial that we remain united and support him as our speaker."
It is a familiar dynamic for House Republicans, as it befell their most recent Republican speakers, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, who both retired early rather than lead a party fractured by its far-right wing.
McCarthy survived those earlier battles between party factions, but he was forced to abandon his 2015 bid for the speakership when it became clear that he lacked conservative support.
McCarthy will likely engage in difficult negotiations with the Freedom Caucus and rank-and-file Republicans in the coming weeks as he attempts to win their support for the upcoming year.
As an indication of how desperate Republicans are to bolster their ranks, some have reached out to conservative Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas to join the GOP.
Cuellar told reporters, "They simply said, 'Name your price'" "I'm a Democrat."
Before giving McCarthy their support, the Freedom Caucus lawmakers, who typically side with Trump, are prepared to extract extensive concessions from him. They have a lengthy list of requests, including prime positions on House committees and assurances that they will have a hand in shaping legislation.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pennsylvania, chairman of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump ally, said after meeting privately with McCarthy on Monday, "I'm willing to support anyone who is willing to radically alter how things are done here."
However, even rank-and-file lawmakers are weighing their options for the position of speaker, which is second in line to the presidency.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) stated, "I don't automatically assume the heir apparent." "We are voting for a candidate who will be within two heartbeats of the presidency."
Democrats will hold their party elections after Thanksgiving, during which Pelosi and the top two leaders, Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn will decide whether to remain in office or step down to make way for a new generation eager to take control.
Pelosi could very well join the new Congress in January, declining to run for leadership after being re-elected to represent San Francisco for another two-year term.
Clyburn of South Carolina indicated he would take this path should the Democrats lose majority control.
Clyburn told reporters, "I've told everyone that I have no interest in running for speaker of the House or minority leader of the House at this time in my life." "I do wish to remain at the table of leadership. I will defer to our Democratic caucus in determining what capacity this will be."