Far-right Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) announced Tuesday that he is challenging House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for House speaker, arguing in an op-ed that Republicans need to ditch “the establishment” as they retake power in the chamber.
“People are thrilled that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s reign of Leftist extremism is ending. The question is whether we will be treated to the status quo that will move us along the same path, though perhaps more slowly,” Biggs wrote in a piece for the right-wing Daily Caller. “Will we elect an establishment Republican as the speaker — think [former House Speaker] Paul Ryan, or in this case, Ryan’s right-hand man, Kevin McCarthy.”
Biggs, the former leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, has virtually no shot at becoming speaker. But hard-liners still need an instigator, and Biggs risks creating a big mess for Republicans in the new Congress if he manages to peel away more than four votes from McCarthy. Biggs argued in his piece that the “conservative movement” has a rare opportunity to “change the direction of the nation” with the election of a new House speaker who isn’t McCarthy.
“We actually have the opportunity to dislodge the establishment and reinvigorate the America First movement that was founded by former President Donald Trump,” Biggs wrote. “Yes, that Donald Trump.”
Biggs is one of five Republican defectors opposing McCarthy’s bid for the gavel, including Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Bob Good (R-Va.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.). McCarthy needs 218 votes from a slim House majority to become speaker.
As House minority leader, McCarthy has carefully wooed the right in the hopes of one day leading fractious House Republicans — and it’s paid off, mostly. His influential backers include Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), as well as conservative radio host Mark Levin and former Trump adviser Stephen Miller. But the five holdouts could still make life challenging for Republicans during the floor vote for speaker next month.
Biggs and several of his far-right colleagues helped organize the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. It was later revealed during the House’s Jan. 6 committee hearings that Biggs was among the lawmakers who asked Trump for a preemptive pardon following the attack.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R) testified at the hearings that Biggs was among those who pressured him to decertify Arizona’s 2020 presidential results.