McCarthy officially launches bid for House speaker

Washington — Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House, officially jumped into the race for speaker even as some races have yet to be called and the battle for control of the House remains uncertain, according to CBS News estimates.

McCarthy announced his bid for House speaker in a letter to his Republican colleagues Wednesday asking for their support. The California Republican pitched himself as a speaker who will be a “listener” and strive to “build consensus from the bottom-up rather than commanding the agenda from the top-down.”

“We have ended one-party Democrat rule in Washington by effectively prosecuting the case against their failed policies while detailing our plan for a new direction with the Commitment to America,” McCarthy wrote. “Even so, I trust you know that earning the majority is only the beginning. Now, we will be measured by what we do with our majority. Now, the real work begins.”

The Republican leader pledged that if he is tapped as speaker, he will “immediately” reopen the U.S. Capitol and end proxy voting, which allows absent members to select another lawmaker to cast votes for them, as well as “remote work schemes.” McCarthy also vowed to charge House committees with drafting and marking up bills, while marshaling resources to allow the lower chamber to conduct oversight of the Biden administration.

“Starting today, it is up to each one of us to demonstrate leadership on the issues that matter most and do what is required to get America back on track,” he wrote. “There is no time to waste.”

McCarthy has worked his way through the ranks of Republican leadership since he was elected to the House in 2006, including serving as majority whip and majority leader under former House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan. While he is considered the favorite to become speaker in a GOP-controlled House, a narrow Republican majority could give some factions of the conference more leverage over McCarthy as he works to secure their support. All members of the House vote in elections for the speakership, while other posts like majority and minority leader are chosen by members of the respective party.

McCarthy’s ability to wrangle votes from his fellow Republicans could prove pivotal when it comes time for the House to take up must-pass pieces of legislation, such as government funding bills.

CBS News estimates that Democrats will win at least 200 seats in the House, while Republicans will take 210 seats after Tuesday’s elections. To win the majority in the upper chamber, 218 seats are needed.

In addition to the quest for House speaker, other races for Republican leadership posts are beginning to take shape.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, formally asked his GOP colleagues to support his bid for majority leader, promising to “work tirelessly to usher our vision through the House” and turn Republicans’ agenda into legislative action. He, too, said he would “prioritize” oversight of the Biden administration.

A Republican-led House is poised to swiftly launch investigations involving President Biden and his administration once the new Congress is seated in January, with targets of their probes likely to be Hunter Biden, the president’s son; Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; and Dr. Anthony Fauci, about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Biden himself has acknowledged the challenges a GOP-controlled House would pose for his agenda, telling reporters at the White House on Monday that his new reality in Washington is going to be “more difficult” if Republicans win control of Congress.

More about: