By Sarah Fortinsky and Paul LeBlanc, CNN
Republican Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York on Sunday offered his full support for House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid, saying the party won’t be “held hostage by a handful of members” seeking to place a different Republican atop the chamber.
“Kevin is the only person that I will be voting for, for speaker, if it’s one vote or multiple votes. And I think there’s many of my colleagues who feel the same way,” Lawler said on “State of the Union” in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And frankly, we’re not going to be held hostage by a handful of members, when the overwhelming majority of the conference is in full support of Kevin.”
Lawler, a state assemblyman, made headlines last month after he unseated New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of House Democrats’ campaign arm, in a Lower Hudson Valley district.
McCarthy and his critics are gearing up for a potential floor fight over the speakership in January, raising the possibility of a messy intraparty showdown that could bring uncertainty and chaos just as Republicans prepare to enter their new majority.
While McCarthy insists he will have the 218 votes needed to secure the speaker’s gavel, the conservative hard-liners seeking to plot the California Republican’s ouster say otherwise.
It’s still not known what would happen on January 3 if McCarthy cannot get 218 votes to be elected speaker. Republicans will only have a narrow majority in the new Congress, with 222 House seats, so McCarthy can only afford to lose four GOP votes. But there’s an expectation that any number of Republicans could throw their hat into the ring if McCarthy stumbles or drops out.
“I do think cooler heads will prevail. And I do think, on January 3, Kevin will have the necessary votes to become speaker,” Lawler said Sunday, noting, “A month is a long time in politics.”
In recent weeks, part of McCarthy’s pitch to his critics has been that if they don’t unify, then Democrats could theoretically band together and peel off a few Republicans to elect the next speaker on the floor. In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, McCarthy tied his bid for speaker to a number of GOP priorities and warned Republicans against “squandering this majority.”
“If people don’t come along, that’s going to delay our ability to secure the border. That’s going to delay our ability to become energy independent, that’s going to delay our ability to repeal 87,000 IRS agents, that’s going to delay our ability to hold government accountable,” he said.
“There’s no subpoena that can go out until that gets done. And right now, it’s actually delaying our ability to govern as we go. So I’m hopeful that everybody comes together, finds a way to govern together,” McCarthy said.
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CNN’s Daniella Diaz contributed to this report.