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WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Austin, a top opponent of Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House speaker, emerged Thursday as the lead negotiator among a fractured Republican conference working to end a historic standoff blocking Congress from starting its work.
The Texas firebrand has been one of the most vocal opponents to McCarthy’s leadership of the new House with a GOP majority, asserting a need to overhaul how the chamber is run to give more power to rank-and-file members. The cleavage within the party split the Republican speaker vote, meaning no one had the votes to claim the gavel. McCarthy, the Republican minority leader for the past four years, was the overwhelming choice of Republicans, but Roy and others have successfully peeled off enough members in their party to block him from a win. A candidate must get a simple majority in the entire chamber to become speaker.
Roy spent Thursday shuttling between the House floor, where members continued a monotonous train of roll call votes, and the office of Republican Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota, where McCarthy allies and right-wing dissidents hammered out potentials for compromise. The roughly 20 Republican members voting for alternative speaker candidates insisted on prime committee assignments and a host of new rules to drastically change the way the House conducts its business.
While Roy has been a leader of the movement to block McCarthy, he has differentiated himself from some of his peers like Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who are referred to as the “Never Kevins,” because there is nothing McCarthy could offer them that would cause them to change their vote.
Roy, however, has suggested an openness to supporting McCarthy, as he repeatedly said over the weeks leading up to the speaker’s election that he does not have any personal feuds and is singularly focused on addressing House procedure.
Roy and McCarthy have both indicated for days that they were making progress in their discussions, and many Republicans who support McCarthy expressed agreement for some of Roy’s positions. Although there were numerous accusations of personality politics and cynical self-interest motivating opponents to McCarthy’s speakership, Roy was widely considered to be one of the most likely to sway to McCarthy should his demands be met.
Rep. Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina, told reporters that negotiators had discussed a first draft deal that could be a starting point for a final agreement, but "we've got a ways to go" that could stretch into the weekend.
The House adjourned Thursday night and plans to start voting again noon Eastern time Friday. Members huddled after adjourning in Emmer's office to continue talks into the night.
Though Roy was effusive in his reasoning for weeks before the vote, by Thursday, he had become considerably more mum, telling throngs of reporters following his steps that his negotiations with current Republican leadership were sensitive.
“We’re just having a nice day behind closed doors, doing our jobs,” Roy said. “A lot of good work has been done. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
When asked where he was in negotiations, Roy responded: "I'm in the United States Capitol. The first floor."
It’s an attitude carried by other dissenting members. Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria, and Rep.-elect Keith Self of McKinney, are the only other Texas Republicans who have voted against McCarthy. Both repeatedly declined to comment when approached with questions.
Until a speaker is selected, members cannot be sworn in or start their jobs. Laws are not debated, committees are not organized, staffers are not paid, constituents are not assisted.
The details of the agreements remain fluid, but some of the biggest goals from Roy and his camp were to bring down the threshold for calling a vote of no confidence against the speaker to one member, more enforcements to allow more time to read bills and a greater role for the House Freedom Caucus in Republican leadership.