Kevin McCarthy’s political future hangs in the balance as a few crucial votes will determine his fate. The exact number of votes needed for him to survive or be ousted depends on the attendance of House members during the voting process.
Before the House votes on the resolution to remove McCarthy, they will first consider a “motion to table” in order to kill the resolution. This motion will be decided by a simple majority, as will the actual resolution to remove him if the House progresses to that step.
There are currently 433 active members in the House, consisting of 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats. If every single member shows up to vote, the threshold for victory for either side is 217.
In this scenario, assuming all Democrats vote against McCarthy, he can only afford to lose four Republican votes. However, at least five GOP members have already publicly stated their intention to vote against him. Therefore, if all members show up to vote and Democrats remain united in opposition, McCarthy will face significant challenges.
“If five Republicans side with the Democrats, then I’m out,” McCarthy admitted to reporters on Tuesday. However, the math is not necessarily that straightforward.
If fewer than 433 members attend the vote, the majority threshold decreases. For instance, if two Democrats are absent, McCarthy would only need 216 Republican votes to survive. This may be achievable if he and his deputies can prevent further defections beyond the five Republicans already against him.
A similar situation arises if some Democrats choose to vote “present” instead of affirmatively supporting or opposing McCarthy. “Present” votes do not count towards the resolution’s passage, so the majority would be calculated based on those voting “aye” or “nay.” For example, if four “present” votes occur, McCarthy could hold on with 215 votes in his favor.
Additionally, it is possible that one or two wayward Democrats may break ranks with their party and vote to keep McCarthy as the speaker. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader, has urged his members to vote as a bloc against McCarthy. However, given the narrow margins, even one or two Democratic votes for McCarthy could sway the final outcome.