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WASHINGTON: A handful of hardline US Republicans on Tuesday vowed to block Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become the speaker of the House of Representatives, signaling a brutal battle inside the party on its first day holding the majority.

Republicans won a narrow 222-212 majority in November’s election, meaning that McCarthy — or any candidate for speaker — will need to unify a fractious caucus to win the gavel.

Hardliners including Representatives Scott Perry, Andy Biggs and Lauren Boebert, oppose him, concerned that McCarthy is less deeply vested in the culture wars and partisan rivalries that have dominated the House and even more so since Donald Trump’s White House years.

McCarthy tried to persuade the holdouts in a morning party meeting, vowing to stay in the race until he gets the necessary votes, but many participants emerged from the gathering undaunted.

“We may have a battle on the floor but the battle is for the conference and the country,” McCarthy told reporters afterward. McCarthy withdrew from his last bid for speakership in 2015 in the face of conservative oppositions.

Fellow Republican Biggs is also seeking the role, while Democrats are likely to vote for their new leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries. Several hardline Republicans said they remained opposed to McCarthy after the meeting.

“I don’t think he won anybody over that he didn’t already have,” opponent Republican Representative Bob Good told reporters as he exited the meeting.

“I’m here to fight for the American people not McCarthy,” Representative Chip Roy told reporters. Ralph Norman confirmed he still was not planning to vote for McCarthy, saying, “All bets are off,” as he walked into the meeting.

McCarthy easily won his caucus’s nomination in a November vote and many other Republicans voiced anger that opening a new Congress with a bruising battle over leadership would hurt Republicans just as they are attaining power to counter Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

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