[the House GOP]

House GOP holdouts defend their past praise of McCarthy: ‘no vendetta’

Republicans who continue to vote against GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy as House speaker defended their past support for the California congressman after they forced the chamber into a seventh round of voting, which is expected to occur Thursday.

McCarthy only captured 201 Republican votes in the first three rounds of voting Wednesday, totaling six overall. Twenty Republicans voted for Florida Republican Byron Donalds, including himself, and Indiana Republican Victoria Spartz voted ‘present’ after previously voting for McCarthy in Tuesday’s three rounds of voting.

House Democrats have remained united behind incoming Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York in all six rounds of voting, with all 212 casting a vote for him.

The House Freedom Caucus nominated Donalds for House speaker during Wednesday’s votes.

‘Now, here we are. And for the first time in history, there have been two Black Americans placed into the nomination for speaker of the House,’ said Rep.-elect Chip Roy, R-Texas, who nominated Donalds.

Republicans erupted into cheers and rose for a standing ovation after Roy’s remarks. Some Democrats also joined in the standing ovation.

McCarthy came up short even after former President Donald Trump called on House Republicans to back McCarthy and get going with the work of the 118th Congress.

Trump told Fox News Digital that the GOP holdouts are playing a ‘dangerous game.’

Former Vice President Mike Pence also called on Republicans to support McCarthy, tweeting Wednesday: ‘Urging Every Republican in [the House GOP] to support my friend, Kevin McCarthy as the next Speaker of the House.’

Despite the former administration’s pleas, 20 Republicans continued to vote against McCarthy in the sixth round of voting Wednesday afternoon after the House Freedom Caucus nominated Donalds.

Many of the Republicans have previously praised McCarthy’s leadership and even accepted re-election campaign money from McCarthy during last year’s midterm elections. 

Politico and Axios both reported this week that the vast majority of the 20 holdouts received campaign cash in past years from McCarthy’s leadership PAC, the Majority Committee, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, multiple Republican holdouts told Fox News Digital they don’t ‘engage in pay-to-play politics.’

Past tweets from House Freedom Caucus members also show that a lot can change in two years.

‘We need a leader who puts the people over politics and who doesn’t answer to the Squad. That is why I proudly voted for @GOPLeader,’ Donalds tweeted on the opening day of the 117th Congress two years ago.

Donalds’ office told Fox News Digital that the congressman ‘has never been in the anti-Kevin McCarthy club.’

‘This is about who can reach 218 votes,’ Donalds senior adviser Harrison Fields said. ‘The Congressman has respect and a good relationship with Mr. McCarthy, but he does not have the votes to get across the finish line. After six rounds of voting, how much longer will we do the same thing again before looking for alternatives?’

‘The nomination humbles the Congressman, but his main focus is securing the votes for a solid conservative that can get the votes necessary to prevail,’ he added. ‘Whether that is the Congressman, Mr. McCarthy, or someone else, we have to land this plane.’

Republican Rep.-elect Andy Biggs of Arizona also tweeted two years ago after McCarthy’s opening day speech: ‘Over the next two years, few Members of Congress will be more integral to fighting the Democrats’ radical efforts to transform America into a socialist utopia than @GOPLeader. Yesterday, he blistered Pelosi & House Dems – a must-watch speech for every freedom-loving American.’ He also previously thanked McCarthy for his ‘leadership’ in supporting his motion to censure Rep. Adam Schiff of California.

Biggs’ communications director Matthew Tragesser explained that the congressman’s tweet about McCarthy’s speech did not constitute an endorsement.

‘Congressman Biggs believed that specific speech in 2021 warranted praise but the Tweet does not equate to a 2023 House Speaker endorsement for Kevin McCarthy,’ Tragesser told Fox News Digital. ‘Congressman Biggs did receive campaign funds from McCarthy’s leadership PAC, but again, that does not translate to an automatic 2023 House Speaker endorsement. Congressman Biggs does not believe in or engage in pay-to-play politics.’

In November 2021, Rep.-elect Dan Bishop tweeted three muscle arm emojis to McCarthy following the leader’s 8.5-hour-long speech against the Build Back Better Act, adding, ‘We need to keep holding the line and fighting for the American people.’ He also said McCarthy was ‘right’ on multiple issues that have been raised by the Republican base, including opposing defunding the police and securing the border.

Bishop communications director Allie McCandless told Fox News Digital that the congressman ‘has no vendetta against Kevin McCarthy.’

‘The tweet you’re referring to was from November 2021, when Congressman Bishop sat on the floor with Kevin McCarthy as he fought against President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ spending bill,’ McCandless said. ‘He is a strong supporter of any effort to prevent bloated spending bills from passing, and appreciated the fight from Kevin McCarthy.’

‘Congressman Bishop has no vendetta against Kevin McCarthy. At this moment, he does not think that he is the right candidate for Speaker,’ she added. ‘Congressman Bishop doesn’t participate in pay-to-play politics. His votes cannot be bought by campaign donations.’

Republican Rep.-elect Andrew Clyde of Georgia praised McCarthy in April 2021 for supporting his legislation.

‘I’m glad to stand with @GOPLeader on the Biden Border Crisis,’ Clyde tweeted at the time. ‘My bipartisan bill, H.R. 2076, will help achieve the fourth goal of Leader McCarthy’s plan.’ 

Republican Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert thanked McCarthy for his support in August 2020 and received $5,000 from his leadership PAC in July of that year.

‘I’m a Young Gun! Thank you to House Republican Leader @GOPLeader and the @NRCC,’ she tweeted at the time. ‘I appreciate all of your support! I am fighting for freedom while crushing the Left’s socialist agenda!’  

Clyde’s and Boebert’s offices did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.

Fox News Digital’s Cameron Cawthorne contributed to this report.

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