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118th Congress to be sworn in, House speaker uncertain

(NewsNation) — The 118th U.S. Congress will be sworn into office Tuesday, with control of the Senate remaining in Democratic hands and the House set to flip to the Republicans

A Republican House and Democratic Senate mean no one party can jam through any big priorities into law without at least some cooperation from the other side.

However, talks and negotiations over who will be the House speaker are expected up until Congress is sworn in.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) remains the frontrunner to become House speaker after he won the Republican nomination back in November, but needs 218 votes to officially be elected to the position. And five lawmakers have already come forward saying they will vote against him.

Due to the slim majority in the Republican Party, he can only lose four votes.

Almost a dozen other Republicans have openly voiced concerns about him becoming House speaker, saying he is not conservative enough.

NewsNation has confirmed McCarthy held a conference call trying to hammer out a deal to gain enough support from his own party to become speaker of the House.

He essentially agreed on new rules in the next Congress that would allow just five members of the House at any point to call for a vote to remove the speaker.

It’s a big concession, one that McCarthy himself said a couple of weeks ago he would never make, but at this point, he is still desperate to get the support from his own party to become speaker. Yet, some of the lawmakers said his concession doesn’t go far enough.

“Why didn’t we get McCarthy’s proposed rules package at least 72 hours in advance?” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) tweeted on Monday.

But while some opponents are making it clear they are not onboard with McCarthy, other lawmakers are wearing “OK” buttons or holding signs in support — “OK” stands for “Only Kevin.”

“He’s done the hard work, he has the respect of people,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) “Quite frankly there’s an inevitability that he will be the speaker. So now it’s time for those few holdouts to decide, what is it they really want.”

So, if not McCarthy, then who?

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) could challenge McCarthy after challenging him back in November, even though he lost by a large margin in that vote.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) could also be a popular alternative but remains in McCarthy’s corner and the party’s House majority leader nominee.

Other lawmakers, such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), voiced their support for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to run against McCarthy for speaker of the House.

“All I want for Christmas is Jim Jordan to realize he should be speaker of the House!” Gaetz tweeted on Christmas Eve. Gaetz then solely tweeted “Speaker Jordan” on Dec. 30, continuing his nomination campaign for Jordan as House speaker.

The vote for House speaker will follow shortly after Congress is sworn in at 12 p.m. ET at the Capitol. Every House speaker since 1923 has secured the position on the first vote on the floor.

“We’re going to vote for who we think is the best person to lead the Republican conference. You’re going to see 10 to 15 Republicans vote against Kevin on the first ballot tomorrow to block him,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) vowed, arguing that McCarthy isn’t committed enough to conservative principles.

If McCarthy can’t secure a vote, the votes will continue until someone does. It’s important to understand that anything on the Republican agenda can’t be taken up in Congress until they secure a House speaker.