But as Mr. McCarthy gave more ground to the far-right group, it was becoming clear that — whoever ended up as speaker — the lower chamber of the 118th Congress would be highly difficult to control. Should Mr. McCarthy fail to cement the votes and an alternative candidate emerge, the dissidents would be all but certain to insist upon the same concessions he has offered as a baseline for winning their votes.
And with hard-right lawmakers empowered to derail spending bills or call for the speaker’s removal at any moment, some worried the chamber would be dysfunctional and paralyzed from the start.
“The concessions he’s made means that it will be a minority of a minority of the minority, because of the Freedom Caucus, that will get to dictate the outcomes of legislative achievement,” said Representative Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee. “The problem is for him that, with every concession, he has to wake up every day wondering if he’s still going to have his job. Because the smallest disagreement could lead to a motion from the body to remove him from the speakership.”
The objections to Mr. McCarthy’s leadership were both personal and political. Some members deeply dislike him and say they would never vote for him under any circumstances. Others were using the speaker election as leverage to enact sweeping changes to the way the House functions. And some were seeking to do exactly what they say they were sent to Congress to do — tear it all down.
Speaking against Mr. McCarthy on the House floor, Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, portrayed him as someone who would do anything to cling to power. In effect, as Mr. McCarthy capitulated to the hard right, he was proving their point, Mr. Gaetz suggested.
“Maybe the right person for the speaker of the House isn’t someone who has sold shares of himself for more than a decade to get it,” Mr. Gaetz said, criticizing Mr. McCarthy as “beholden to the lobbyists and special interest that have corrupted this place and corrupted this nation.”
But as frustration spread within the Republican caucus, mainstream Republicans were holding out hope they could end the rebellion, elect a speaker, and get down to work — that the opening week of their party’s rule would be an aberration, not the norm.