Still One Seat Shy of Majority, GOP Chooses Party Leaders

November 16, 2022 by Dan McCue
Still One Seat Shy of Majority, GOP Chooses Party Leaders
From left, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., arrive for a ceremony in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, Sept. 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

WASHINGTON — House Republicans chose their prospective leaders Tuesday, despite the fact the party continued to remain one tantalizing seat shy of formally securing a majority in the chamber.

As of Wednesday morning, The Associated Press was projecting that Democrats would win four more House races, three in California (the victors being Josh Harder, Jim Costa and Ami Bera) and one in Colorado (Yadira Caraveo).

Ten races from election day remain uncalled, but the odds favor the Republicans gaining the last seat they need for a majority as their candidates lead in four of those contests.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., posted a resounding victory in the race for the GOP nomination for speaker, beating back a challenge by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., 188-31, in a secret-ballot vote held behind closed doors at the Capitol.


Biggs bid was supported by members of the Donald Trump-aligned House Freedom Caucus, which is demanding a laundry list of concessions from the leader if he wants their support when the chamber formally votes on its next speaker on Jan. 3, 2023.

Though Tuesday’s vote was likely strong enough to silence a few skeptics, the five-term congressman still needs to find a way to secure 218 floor votes when the new Congress convenes in January.

It’s likely to be a fraught task. After surprisingly strong results for Democrats across the country on election night, the slim majority the Republicans will likely hold could leave him with not a single GOP vote to spare.

Nevertheless, McCarthy was feeling good at a press briefing after this first round of voting. 

“I’m proud to announce the era of one party, Democratic rule in Washington is over,” McCarthy said. 

“Washington now has a check and balance. The American people have a say in their government, and this new Republican leadership team is ready to get to work to put America back on the right track,” he continued.

But McCarthy went on to acknowledge the road ahead for him and his prospective leadership will not be easy.

“We’ve got a close majority,” he said, and in a nod to bipartisanship he added, “we’re going to have to work together.”

“And we want to work with anyone that wants to make America stronger,” he said. “We want to work with anyone on both sides of the aisle if they want to make America energy independent, give their parents a say in their kids’ education, secure our borders and stop defunding the police.”

He concluded by saying he and the Republican leadership in the House are “prepared to lead regardless of the size of the majority.”

“One thing I’ve learned is that they don’t hand out gavels in small, medium and large. You get the right size gavel and we will use it,” he said.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., currently the House Republican whip, was elected the party’s nominee for majority leader.

In a statement, he said he was humbled by the vote and vowed to “roll up my sleeves and get to work fighting for those families who are struggling.”

Later, at the GOP press briefing, Scalise put his own gloss on the election results, saying, “people all across America went to the polls last week to elect a Republican House majority that will fight for them.”

“If you look everywhere from Portland, Oregon, down to South Florida, we flipped seats from Democrat to Republican with candidates that were running on an agenda that’s focused on lowering inflation, or reducing energy costs, securing America’s border, combating crime where we can give police the tools they need to keep our communities safe and return safely to their families, and getting parents more involved in their kids’ education. And as the majority leader, I really look forward to bringing those bills to the floor.”

Scalise said he’ll do so while ending the proxy voting that’s been in place since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and by ensuring that committees meet in person again “to debate things that are important to hard-working families.”

“It’s going to be an exciting time,” he predicted.

The most contentious race for a leadership nomination was won by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., who was chosen to be the party’s nominee for majority whip.


Emmer oversaw the House Republican campaign arm for the last two campaign cycles. While both saw the GOP gaining seats in the House, this year was a huge disappointment for a party that at one point was projected to win as many as 30 additional seats.

Dissatisfaction over the results of the midterm helped fuel aggressive challenges to Emmer from Republican Study Committee Chair Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., and Chief Deputy Whip Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.

Emmer beat Ferguson by just one vote during the first round of secret balloting, and ultimately defeated Banks on the second ballot.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., was nominated to be Republican conference chair. If the party nabs the last seat it needs for the majority in the chamber, this is the first time she will hold the position for a full congressional term. 

She assumed the role after House Republicans ousted Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her leadership posts due to her frequent critiques of former President Donald Trump and her decision to serve on the select House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, siege on the U.S. Capitol.

In a statement, Stefanik vowed to “keep our message disciplined, unified and on [the] offensive every single day,” to support the Republican agenda and to highlight individual members.

Like McCarthy and Emmer, Stefanik also faced a challenge from a Freedom Caucus member, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. In the end, after what is said to have been a spirited candidate forum on Monday, she prevailed 144-74.

In other leadership races, Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., secured her nomination as the party’s next conference chair over Reps. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., and Glenn Grothman, R-Wis., while Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., will be the new head of the House Republican campaign arm. 

In related news, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky beat back a challenge by Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., for the party’s top leadership post in the Senate after a three-hour meeting in the Old Senate Chamber of the Capitol during which the longtime leader sought to work out differences with dissidents in his party.

After the final votes were tallied, McConnell had garnered 37 votes to Scott’s 10.

The remainder of the Republican leadership in the Senate was selected with little drama.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., will remain minority whip, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., will continue as conference chair, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will be policy chair, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., will be conference vice chair.

In addition, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., will be National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair.

The timing of the elections had been murky until almost the last moment, after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he would put forward a motion to delay them.

“I will offer a motion to delay the Republican Senate leadership elections until AFTER the Georgia runoffs so we know who will be in our conference. We owe this to the American people,” Cruz announced via Twitter.

“Republican leadership needs a plan to fight the disastrous policies from the Biden administration,” he added. 

“After a disappointing election, it’s ridiculous for Republicans to immediately rubber stamp the same leadership without having this discussion,” he said.

Cruz, however, got little support and today’s meeting on the vote went ahead as scheduled.

The remainder of the Republican leadership in the Senate was selected with little drama.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., will remain minority whip, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., will continue as conference chair, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, will be policy chair, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., will be conference vice chair.

In addition, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., will be National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair.


The House Democrats’ leadership election is currently scheduled for Nov. 30. Senate Democrats are expected to hold their elections on Dec. 5.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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