Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.) late Monday announced a run for Speaker, challenging House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) in the Republican conference’s nomination to the post.
“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 to — to the position of Speaker of the House,” Biggs said on Newmax on Monday night.
“We’ll see if we can get the job done and the votes,” Biggs said. “It’s going to be tough. I mean, Kevin — Kevin has raised a lot of money and done a lot of things. But this is not just about Kevin. I think it’s about the institutional direction and trajectory.”
The challenge from Biggs, a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, comes as House Republicans’ expectations of a red wave crashed into a ripple in last week’s midterms. Election projections have not yet called a majority of House seats in Republicans’ favor, but the GOP believes it will end up with a slim majority.
McCarthy needs to win a majority of votes from House GOP members in a secret-ballot election on Tuesday to secure his conference’s nomination for the post. 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 Speakership, assuming all 435 members are sworn in that day.
Biggs did not step up as an alternative to McCarthy at a House GOP leadership candidate forum on Monday afternoon, according to sources in the room.
Bigg’s challenge comes as the Freedom Caucus is pressing GOP leadership to make rules changes that, on the whole, would empower individual members and weaken the power of leadership.
His plan to challenge McCarthy, however, is not supported by all Freedom Caucus members.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) warned that Republicans in a slim majority face risks if they are not unified behind one candidate and that a handful of moderate House Republicans could join Democrats to support a compromise Speaker candidate.
"We have to elect Kevin McCarthy,” Greene told reporters Monday. “I can't support a challenge that will allow the Democrats to — to elect their own speaker by pulling some of ours.”
She added that she is trying to talk to her colleagues who are hesitant about supporting McCarthy to convince them to support the GOP leader.
In a validation of those fears, Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a moderate, told NBC News on Monday that he would theoretically vote with Democrats to support a consensus candidate if McCarthy could not get 218 votes on the floor. But Bacon later stressed to reporters that he thinks McCarthy will get to that number and that working with Democrats is “not even a realistic scenario.”
There are concerns about who would be the consensus alternative 218 House Republicans could support on the floor. Freedom Caucus members helped to derail McCarthy’s Speakership bid in 2015 after former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) resigned, resulting in Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) becoming Speaker, which was later seen as a disappointment to some Freedom Caucus members.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who previously challenged McCarthy to lead House Republicans, has been brought up by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who is not a member of the Freedom Caucus, as a possible alternative. But Jordan, who is set to chair the House Judiciary Committee in a GOP majority, has repeatedly said that he supports McCarthy for Speaker.
Biggs told reporters last week that McCarthy’s reluctance to bring up impeachment articles made him question whether he should be Speaker. Biggs has introduced impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and joined impeachment resolutions against President Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“I think that his statement recently that [we] shouldn't impeach Secretary Mayorkas indicates maybe we're not gonna be as aggressive going forward as we should be,” Biggs said last week.
McCarthy has downplayed prospects for bringing up impeachment multiple times, saying that he does not want to use it for “political purposes.”
Biggs also called for more “decentralization” of the conference and a more robust 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 in releasing a “Commitment to America” policy and messaging plan for a House majority in September, but some Freedom Caucus members think that it was not explicit enough about plans for the majority.
Supporters of McCarthy are brushing off Biggs’s bid.
“I’ve got 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 did more to retake the majority than anybody in the entire conference,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), adding that not giving McCarthy the gavel now “would be an insult.”
Mychael Schnell contributed.
Updated 10:06 p.m.