Rep. Kevin McCarthy is the choice of the vast majority of Republican House members to be the leader of the 118th Congress as the party took control of the chamber for the first time since 2019, but he faces a bumpy road ahead in his race for House speaker, since far-right holdouts have so far prevented him from securing a majority of House members voting.

With the Republicans’ slim majority, McCarthy can only afford to lose four GOP votes – and there are at least five Republicans who have said they are “hard” no votes against him.

McCarthy met with the Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus on Monday night, telling reporters on Tuesday night that the meeting was “intense,” but he would not be held hostage by them and he was prepared for a battle on the House floor. 

“Well, that’s not about America, and I will always fight to put the American people first, not a few individuals that want something for themselves,” McCarthy said. “We may have a battle on the floor.  But the battle is for the conference and the country, and that’s fine with me.”

House And Senate Convene For The 118th Congress On Capitol Hill
U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) receives applause from fellow Representatives at the start of start of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

GOP Rep. Andy Biggs has also thrown his hat in the ring to be speaker.

Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar, with a reminder to McCarthy and his fellow Republicans that “House Democrats are united,” nominated his party’s chosen leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, to be speaker. 

Members cannot take their oaths of office until the House has a new speaker. 

 — Melissa Quinn contributed to this report. 

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