As Republicans prepare to take control of the House next week and begin eyeing opportunities to retake the White House in 2024, the party may first have to deal with growing intraparty divisions that could dampen its momentum.
GOP lawmakers entered 2022 with a sense of unity and a common goal: to retake both chambers of Congress by using President Joe Biden’s unpopularity against him. However, as the midterm cycle dragged on, the party faced a series of challenges that led to a disappointing performance after Republicans failed to recapture the Senate and only gained a slight majority in the House.
Now, Republicans are entering the new year with a seemingly fractured message as lawmakers are split on myriad issues, ranging from who to select as House speaker to who should be their 2024 presidential nominee.
Here’s a breakdown of the areas in which Republicans are entering 2023 divided from within:
McCarthy faces growing opposition in bid for House speaker
As Republicans take the House majority on Tuesday, lawmakers will first be tasked with electing their new House speaker. But that may be easier said than done.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has long positioned himself as the heir to take the speaker’s gavel in 2023, even going as far as to release the “Commitment to America” platform during the midterm cycle that he pledged to implement once he became the House leader. However, McCarthy has since faced growing opposition from within the party as some House Republicans have posed direct challenges to his nomination, with others quietly considering other contenders.
At least five GOP lawmakers have publicly said they won’t back his speakership bid. McCarthy can’t afford to lose more than four votes, or else he risks sinking his chances when the House meets to vote on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Republicans are reportedly huddling behind other members of their party for a possible leadership challenge. It’s not clear who Republicans would present as an alternative nominee to McCarthy, although Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) has already announced a challenge to the minority leader’s bid.
Republicans split on how to deal with George Santos
Republicans also face scrutiny after it was revealed one of the party’s incoming freshman lawmakers embellished several details on his resume while running for Congress, prompting several Democrats, and even some GOP lawmakers, to call for an investigation.
Newly elected George Santos (R-NY) admitted to lying about several details on his campaign website while running for office earlier this year, including his alleged employment history with Wall Street firms such as Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. Additionally, Santos lied about his educational history after he claimed he graduated from New York University and Baruch College despite never earning a college degree.
The revelations have put the GOP in a tight spot as it prepares to take the House majority, as a handful of Republicans have joined Democrats to condemn Santos and call on him to resign. However, GOP leaders have remained largely silent on the issue.
GOP mulls who to back as 2024 nominee
As the 2024 presidential election looms and Republicans vie to retake the White House, the party is beginning to consider who its strongest candidate may be.
The GOP primaries will reveal much about the party’s future direction, particularly if lawmakers are content to remain centered on former President Donald Trump’s influence or if Republicans are ready to move on. For now, the party seems to be undecided.
Trump declared his intent to run for president on Nov. 15, so far making him the only Republican to do so. However, the former president is expected to face a crowded field of nominees — and he must grapple with a growing pile of controversies that threaten to sink his presidential bid before it gets properly started.
While some Republicans have already pledged to support Trump’s reelection bid, others have begun to look to other options. One such alternative could be Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not yet declared a White House bid but is considered a rising star within the party.
Other options could include former Vice President Mike Pence, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Republicans consider new leadership after disappointing midterm elections
Outside the halls of Congress, Republicans are also considering a slew of leadership changes after their lackluster performance in the midterm elections.
Specifically, the midterm elections have led conservatives to question Ronna McDaniel’s leadership openly over the Republican National Committee. The GOP’s failure to capture the Senate has prompted some Republicans to consider challenging McDaniel for the top RNC position and others to call for new leadership.
At least two Republicans are challenging McDaniel, including lawyer and RNC committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon. McDaniel was also faced with a high-profile challenge from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who had a better-than-expected run for New York governor last month. Zeldin later bowed out, but he maintained his position that McDaniel should step down.