Republicans nominate Kevin McCarthy to replace Nancy Pelosi as speaker of House of Representatives

Right-wing Republicans have been pressing McCarthy to enact changes that would maximise their power

The opposition Republican Party in the United States has nominated Kevin McCarthy from California for speaker in the House of Representatives in the next Congress.

Republicans seem on the cusp of securing the majority in the House of Representatives, although counting is continuing in a number of constituencies following the midterm elections last week.

Mr McCarthy has been the minority leader in the current House of Representatives. However, at a meeting in Washington on Tuesday, he faced a challenge from conservative Republican Andy Biggs. Mr McCarthy resoundingly won the vote for the nomination by 188 votes to 31.

Mr Biggs is a former chairman of the ultra-conservative freedom caucus in the Republican Party, and ran as a protest candidate.


However, it is not yet certain that Mr McCarthy will take over as speaker from Nancy Pelosi of the Democratic Party in January. When the vote for speaker goes to the full House in early January, Mr McCarthy will need to secure 218 votes, assuming the Republicans are in the majority at that stage.

Democrats did far better than expected in the midterm elections. The party held on to control of the Senate and had a narrow path to retain the majority in the House of Representatives. However, the prospect of the Democrats retaining their majority dwindled on Monday.

As of Tuesday lunchtime, Republicans needed to win about three more seats to secure a majority after a number of successes recorded on Monday night.

Attention will now focus on contests in California and Colorado. Victories in these contests would almost certainly see the Republicans secure the 218 seats needed to retake the majority in the House of Representatives.

However, a small Republican majority will give the right-wing faction of the party greater leverage.

A number of right-wing Republican politicians have been pressing Mr McCarthy to enact changes that would maximise their power and weaken his. These proposed reforms would include effectively allowing any Republican to remove the speaker at any point, ending pandemic-era proxy voting, and negotiating directly with the speaker for committee assignments.

While counting is continuing in the elections, former president Donald Trump was scheduled on Tuesday night to announce a new bid for the White House.

On Tuesday the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, potentially a rival of Mr Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, said the results of the midterm elections were disappointing.

“There were a lot, a lot of disappointments. That’s just the reality. It was a hugely underwhelming, disappointing performance, especially given that [US president Joe] Biden’s policies are overwhelmingly unpopular.”

Mr DeSantis said some candidates had not fared well – presumably a reference to those supported by Mr Trump who did not succeed. He said independent voters “aren’t voting for our candidates, even with Biden in the White House and the failures that we’re seeing”.

On Tuesday, the Democrat Katie Hobbs, who defeated right-wing Republican candidate Kari Lake to win the governorship of Arizona, said: “Arizonans chose solving our problems over conspiracy theories. We chose democracy.”

Ms Lake is a strong backer of Mr Trump’s assertion that the 2020 presidential election was stolen – claims which have not been accepted by any court.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent