Jonathon Ambarian

HELENA (KPAX) - In November, Montana voters elected two Republicans to represent the state in the U.S. House.

But even before the new Congress meets, it appears Rep. Matt Rosendale and Rep.-elect Ryan Zinke may be divided on one of the first decisions they have to make — selecting a new House speaker.

Rosendale, Montana’s current at-large and future eastern district representative, has been one of five congressional Republicans who have publicly threatened to vote against the current GOP leader in the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. He’s reiterated his criticisms of McCarthy in national interviews and opinion pieces.

However, Zinke — who formerly represented Montana at large and will return to the House as congressman for the western district — told MTN Republicans should unite behind McCarthy when the final vote is cast on Jan. 3.

Republicans won 222 House seats in the November elections, to Democrats’ 213. McCarthy must win a majority of the House — 218 members if everyone votes — in order to become speaker. If no one gets a majority, the vote could go to a second ballot for the first time since 1923.

In November, as House Republicans held an internal vote to nominate McCarthy as their candidate for speaker, Rosendale expressed strong opposition in a series of tweets.

“Each Member of Congress has earned and deserves equal participation in the legislative process,” he said. “That will only happen if the House returns to the rules that governed this legislative body before Nancy Pelosi took control. Kevin McCarthy isn’t willing to make those changes. He wants to maintain the status quo, which consolidates power into his hands and a small group of individuals he personally selects. We need a leader who can stand up to a Democrat-controlled Senate and President Biden, and unfortunately, that isn’t Kevin McCarthy. Montanans deserve better from Congress.”

Some of the rule changes Rosendale and the other holdouts are calling for include making it easier for individual House members to propose amendments and allowing a smaller number of members to call a vote on removing the speaker.

National media reports say McCarthy is in discussions with members, trying to forge a compromise. As of Friday morning, a spokesperson for Rosendale’s office told MTN the congressman had not changed his position on McCarthy.

Zinke is returning to Congress after being elected statewide in 2014 and 2016 and then becoming U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Donald Trump. In a statement Zinke’s office shared with MTN, he said GOP members should vote for McCarthy.

“The Biden administration is a disaster, the Senate has a spending problem, and the last line of freedom is the House,” he said. “McCarthy won a super majority of Republican members and is supported by President Trump and Jim Jordan. On January 3rd, when the vote is cast, those opposed are either with us or they are against a Republican majority.”

As holdouts continue their opposition, other Republican members have indicated they’ll only vote for McCarthy, even if the vote goes into multiple ballots.

McCarthy has been a long-time member of House GOP leadership. He was the party's second-highest-ranking member during Zinke's time in Congress, and its highest-ranking during Rosendale's tenure.