Republicans Control the House but Can't Compromise on Someone To Lead It

Plus: Appeals court upholds policy linking bathrooms to biological sex, the worst states for taxes, and more...


Happy new year, Roundup readers! I hope your early 2023 is so far going better than for Republican Speaker-elect Kevin McCarthy. Having served as the House Minority Leader since 2019, McCarthy should be a shoo-in for House speaker in this year's Republican-controlled House.

But as the new 118th Congress convenes today, a small but strong opposition force could derail McCarthy's bid to remain Republicans' top House leader.

McCarthy has been working hard to win them over. In a letter to GOP colleagues, he pledged to "restore the ability for any 5 members of the majority party to initiate a vote to remove the Speaker if so warranted." Fox News noted that "previous House rules, put in place by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, required a member of the House leadership from the majority party to initiate a vote to remove the current speaker."

McCarthy also vowed in the letter to limit proxy voting. "Congress was never intended for Zoom, and no longer will members be able to phone it in while attending lavish international weddings or sailing on their boat. We will meet, gather and debate in person—just as the founders envisioned," McCarthy wrote.

Additionally, McCarthy said he would give lawmakers 72 hours to read a bill before it is voted upon and create a select committee to investigate the "weaponization" of the Department of Justice.

But nine Republican lawmakers—Reps. Scott Perry (Pa.), Chip Roy (Texas), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), and Andy Harris (Md.); and Reps.-elect Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), and Andy Ogles (Tenn.)—said yesterday they're still not quite on board with McCarthy for Speaker and want to see a "radical departure from the status quo."

"Thus far, there continue to be missing specific commitments with respect to virtually every component of our entreaties, and thus, no means to measure whether promises are kept or broken," the nine wrote in a Sunday letter. Among other things, they want a single lawmaker to have to power to call for a vote to remove the Speaker (which was the pre-Pelosi policy).

In addition, it's a hard no on McCarthy for Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), and three others.

Republicans have 222 seats in House starting today and McCarthy needs 218 votes to become speaker. So, McCarthy "doesn't appear to have the votes. At least not yet," noted Ursula Perano and Sam Brodey at The Daily Beast. "And barring a dramatic resolution in the closing hours, Tuesday's vote could be the most chaotic in the modern history of the chamber."

Further complicating matters, "there are dozens of Republicans who've declared themselves "Only Kevin," meaning they will only vote for McCarthy to be speaker—or so they say," write Perano and Brodey. Of course, "there could be plenty who say they support McCarthy now but would perhaps flip once it becomes clear that McCarthy doesn't have the votes."

Despite the opposition, McCarthy "has remained the only broadly supported candidate for the post," pointed out in The New York Times. But if McCarthy can't muster enough votes to become the next House speaker, alternatives will have to emerge:

House precedent requires that lawmakers continue voting on ballot after ballot if no one is able to win the gavel. If Mr. McCarthy is unable to quickly win election, Republicans would be under immense pressure to coalesce around an alternative, ending a potentially chaotic and divisive fight on the floor that could taint the start of their majority in the House.

Biggs has been trying to present himself as that alternative—but that's a long shot, given his far-right status. Other being talked about as potential alternatives to McCarthy include Rep. Steve Scalise (R–La.), who is the second-ranking House Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan (R–Ohio), Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R–N.C.), and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R–N.Y.).


Federal court upholds Florida school policy linking bathrooms to biological sex. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has given the OK to a Florida school district's policy requiring students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their biological sex. The court split down party lines, with its seven Republican justices siding with the St. Johns County School Board and its four Democratic justices dissenting.

"A policy can lawfully classify on the basis of biological sex without unlawfully discriminating on the basis of transgender status," stated the majority opinion.

"The bathroom policy categorically deprives transgender students of a benefit that is categorically provided to all cisgender students—the option to use the restroom matching one's gender identity," Judge Jill Pryor wrote in her dissent.

"The decision created a split with other federal appeals courts on the issue of transgender bathroom access, which could increase the chances that the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case and resolve the disagreement in the lower courts. The justices often intervene in such circumstances," noted the Wall Street Journal.


The worst states for taxes:


• "The most important divide in American politics isn't red versus blue. It's civic pluralists versus political zealots," writes Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse:

Civic pluralists understand that ideas move the world more than power does, which is why pluralists value debate and persuasion. […] Political zealots reject this, holding that society starts and ends with power. Government in their view isn't to protect from the powerful or the popular. More than anything else, zealots—on the right and the left—seek total victory in the public square.

• I was on Meet the Press this past weekend talking about tech regulation and pushing back against the idea that we need more of it. Full clip here.

• School districts are arbitrarily defining capacity to keep transfer students out.

• "Twitter's ban on 'COVID-19 misinformation,' which Elon Musk rescinded after taking over the platform in late October, mirrored the Biden administration's broad definition of that category in two important respects: It disfavored perspectives that dissented from official advice, and it encompassed not just demonstrably false statements but also speech that was deemed 'misleading' even when it was arguably or verifiably true," writes Reason's Jacob Sullum.

• "Once heralded as game-changers for Covid patients considered at risk for getting seriously ill — one was used to treat then-President Donald Trump in 2020 — monoclonal antibodies are now largely ineffective against current Covid variants," notes Politico.

• Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin is in the hospital after suffering a heart attack on the field during a Monday night football game.

• Hysterical fearmongering means never having to admit that you were wrong, apparently: