Two Texas Republicans oppose ‘stamping’ party leaders after halftime

WASHINGTON — Republican leaders in both the House and Senate are grappling with a Texas-sized headache from within their own ranks this week amid the aftermath of the party’s disappointing performance in the midterm elections.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is urging his peers to delay a scheduled vote Wednesday morning that is expected to award Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., another term as Senate Republican leader.

On the other side of the Capitol, Rep. Chip Roy nominated R-Austin a challenger to Rep. Kevin McCarthy in his bid for speaker on Tuesday.

Roy’s display of conservative strength should demonstrate that the California Republican cannot count on the 218 votes needed to take the gavel when the next Congress meets in January.

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., announced a challenge for McConnell Tuesday as the Senate’s weekly Republican luncheon stretched to more than triple its usual hour-long duration.

Aides and reporters filled the corridor outside as “lunch” stretched into dinnertime, and Cruz’s impassioned arguments could sometimes be heard through closed doors.

As the meeting ended, Cruz spoke to reporters about his dismay that Democrats had managed to retain their Senate majority despite strong headwinds and a predicted “red wave.”

“It’s ridiculous that immediately after a disappointing election result, Republicans would just turn around and sign off on the same leadership that we had without even having a conversation,” Cruz said.

The election of the leadership should be delayed until after the Georgia Senate runoff on Dec. 6, Cruz said, adding that he intends to introduce a motion when Senate Republicans gather Wednesday morning.

He needs a majority of his Republican Senate peers to back him, and he acknowledged that only eight to 10 of his peers have expressed public support.

Cruz’s home-state Republican colleague, Sen. John Cornyn, may be counted among those opposed to a delay.

“The best thing we can do is get this over with,” Cornyn told reporters. “Because you guys are going to keep writing about it for the next three weeks and it will distract from the Georgia runoff, which I think should be our undivided focus.”

McConnell said during a news conference that he welcomed the competition, but also expressed confidence that it was going nowhere.

“We may or may not vote tomorrow, but I think the outcome is pretty clear,” McConnell said. “I want to repeat again. i have the votes I am elected. The only question is whether we will do it sooner or later.”

He also pushed back critics who blamed him for last week’s poor performance. McConnell said Republicans were crushed by independent voters in key Senate elections in Arizona and New Hampshire.

“We underperformed among independents and moderates because they are perceived by many leaders in our party as embroiled in chaos, negativity and excessive attack, and that frightened independent and moderate Republican voters,” McConnell said.

While Senate Republicans attempted to settle their differences, House Republicans held their own leadership elections.

Texas Republicans have some weight to throw around in the House of Representatives as they account for more than a tenth of the new GOP conference.

“We have the largest Republican delegation, we’re going to lead the conservative states,” said Keith Self, who will take office in the US House of Representatives in January, as he entered a leadership forum Monday night.

While it’s true that Texas Republicans have solid numbers in the House, they’re not all on the same page when it comes to the leadership debate.

Many of them hesitated this week when asked who to support in the leadership contests, though some supported McCarthy, including Republican-elect Monica De La Cruz.

Also behind McCarthy are Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who is set to become the next chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee if Republicans take control.

On cable news and social media, McCaul has described opposition to McCarthy as much ado about nothing and praised him for working tirelessly to raise money for Republican candidates and help them win elections.

“Leader McCarthy has led us to the majority and is the only one who can unite the party to hold the Biden administration accountable for its mistakes at home and abroad,” McCaul said on Twitter.

Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, who is set to chair the House Appropriations Committee if Republicans take control, also supports McCarthy.

A sizeable majority of House Republicans voted to nominate McCarthy for speaker, but more than two dozen members supported Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. instead.

This left McCarthy short of the 218 votes he will need on the floor next January. In a subsequent press conference, McCarthy said he expected to receive that level of support in a timely manner.

Biggs was nominated by Roy, who has joined other Conservative members in pushing for changes in the way the House of Representatives operates that would give members more leverage.

Following Tuesday’s leadership election, Roy said the votes for Biggs showed a sizeable bloc of Republicans in the House of Representatives favors a change.

“No one in this town has 218,” Roy said. “That remains true, and we must continue to have the conversation necessary to get us to where we agree on the changes needed to get there.”

Washington office staffer Rebekah Alvey contributed to this report.