Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich lashed out against the Republican lawmakers opposing Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker, saying the group of GOP hardliners risks sowing chaos within the conference.
Mr. Gingrich, who served as House speaker from 1995 to 1999, likened the group detractors to “kamikazes” trying to “sink the whole Republican Party.”
“They’re not voting against Kevin McCarthy, they’re voting against over 215 members of their own conference,” the former Georgia Republican told Fox News on Monday. ”Their conference voted overwhelmingly, 85%, for McCarthy to be speaker, so this is a fight between a handful of people and the entire rest of the conference.”
“They’re saying they have the right to screw up everything,” he said. “Well, the precedent that sets is … any five people can get up and say, well, I’m now going to screw up the conference too. The choice is Kevin McCarthy or chaos.”
Nine Republican lawmakers signaled Sunday that they remain on the fence about backing Mr. McCarthy from becoming speaker despite the California Republican making a series of concessions to conservative die-hards.
Among the concessions Mr. McCarthy has proposed is a House rule that would make it easier for any member to remove him as speaker. Currently, only members of leadership can offer a motion to vacate the chair, due to a rule put forward in 2019 by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
In a letter Sunday led by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Rep. Chip Roy of Texas on Sunday, nine Republicans signaled that Mr. McCarthy’s detente still might not be enough to bring them on board.
“At this stage, it cannot be a surprise that expressions of vague hopes reflected in far too many of the crucial points still under debate are insufficient,” they wrote. “This is especially true with respect to Mr. McCarthy’s candidacy for speaker because the times call for radical departure from the status quo — not a continuation of past, and ongoing, Republican failures.”
Mr. Gingrich said Mr. McCarthy has “agreed to every policy they have asked for.”
“The truth is that the Freedom Caucus has won a huge set of victories,” he said.
Five lawmakers have already pledged to oppose Mr. McCarthy’s bid when the House assembles to vote on a speaker on Tuesday.
Given the Republicans’ slim majority with 222 seats in the House, Mr. McCarthy can afford to lose no more than four votes.
“These five guys decided to go out as kamikazes and see if they can’t sink the whole Republican Party,” Mr. Gingrich said. “That’s what they’re doing. This is not about Kevin McCarthy, this is about the right of any five members to basically throw away the entire rest of the conference.”
Mr. Gingrich warned that “the Republican Party right now is in the greatest danger of meltdown … since 1964” in the wake of the Democratic landslide that defeated Barry Goldwater in the presidential race and gave the party a 2-1 majority in both houses of Congress.