Representative Andy Biggs (Arizona) announced a presidential race Monday night, challenging House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (California) in the Republican conference nomination for the position.
“We have a new paradigm here, and I think the country wants a different direction from the House of Representatives. And it’s a new world, and, yes, I’m going to be nominated tomorrow for Speaker of the House,” Biggs said on Newmax Monday night.
“We’ll see if we can get the job done and the votes,” Biggs said. ” It’s going to be hard. I mean, Kevin – Kevin has raised a lot of money and done a lot of things. But it’s not just about Kevin. I think it’s about the direction and the institutional trajectory.
The challenge from Biggs, a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, comes as House Republicans’ expectations for a red wave crashed into a midterm ripple last week. Election projections have yet to call for a majority of House seats in favor of Republicans, but the GOP believes it will end up with a narrow majority.
McCarthy must win a majority of votes from House GOP members in a secret ballot election on Tuesday to secure his conference’s nomination for the position. After that, all House members will vote on the floor on the first day of the new Congress in January, when McCarthy would need at least 218 votes to secure the presidency, assuming all 435 members are sworn in that day.
Biggs did not present himself as an alternative to McCarthy at a forum of House GOP leadership candidates on Monday afternoon, according to sources in the room.
Bigg’s challenge comes as the Freedom Caucus urges GOP leaders to make changes to the rules that overall would empower individual members and weaken the power of leadership.
His plan to challenge McCarthy, however, is not supported by all members of the Freedom Caucus.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has warned that Republicans in a narrow majority are at risk if they are not united behind a candidate and that a handful of moderate Republicans in the House could join Democrats in support a compromise candidate for the presidency.
“We have to elect Kevin McCarthy,” Greene told reporters Monday. “I can’t support a challenge that will allow Democrats to – to elect their own president by removing some of our own.”
She added that she is trying to talk to colleagues who are reluctant to support McCarthy to convince them to back the GOP leader.
In a validation of those fears, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a moderate, told NBC News Monday that he would nominally vote with Democrats to back a consensus candidate if McCarthy couldn’t secure 218 votes on floor. But Bacon then stressed to reporters that he believed McCarthy would hit that number and that working with Democrats was “not even a realistic scenario.”
There are concerns about who would be the consensus alternative that House 218 Republicans might support on the floor. Freedom Caucus members helped derail McCarthy’s bid for president in 2015 after former president John Boehner (R-Ohio) resigned, leading to Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) becoming president , which was later seen as a disappointment to some members of the Freedom Caucus.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who previously challenged McCarthy to lead House Republicans, was mooted by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus, as an alternative possible. But Jordan, who is expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee in the GOP majority, has repeatedly said he backs McCarthy for president.
Biggs told reporters last week that McCarthy’s reluctance to publish impeachment stories had him wondering if he should be president. Biggs introduced articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and joined impeachment resolutions against President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“I think his recent statement that [we] shouldn’t remove Secretary Mayorkas indicates that maybe we’re not going to be as aggressive as we should be,” Biggs said last week.
McCarthy has played down opportunities to bring up the impeachment on several occasions, saying he doesn’t want to use it for “political purposes.”
Biggs also called for more “decentralization” of the conference and a stronger policy and oversight plan. “We need to have a very positive statement of what we’re going to accomplish and do, and I haven’t seen that yet,” he said last week.
McCarthy led House Republicans to release a “Commitment to America” messaging policy and plan for a House majority in September, but some members of the Freedom Caucus believe it was not explicit enough about the plans for the majority.
McCarthy supporters reject Biggs’ offer.
“I have respect for Mr. Biggs. But at the end of the day, Kevin McCarthy is our best strategist. He’s our best fundraiser. He’s our best recruiter. He’s done more to regain the majority than anyone in the entire conference,” Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) said, adding that not giving McCarthy the gavel now “would be an insult.”
Mychael Schnell contributed.
Updated 10:06 p.m.
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