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The House adjourned for the night Thursday after 11 votes across three days failed to elect a speaker. It was the first time since before the Civil War that the lower chamber conducted double-digit ballots.
Though the GOP won the majority in the 2022 midterm elections, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) so far has failed to break the deadlock posed by as many as 20 Republican members-elect, a sufficient number to deny him the speakership. Still, there were signs of a deal in the works. The House is set to go back into session Friday at noon in Washington, D.C.
Not since the 36th Congress, which stretched from 1859 through 1861, had there been a number of votes in the double digits. During that drawn-out process, William Pennington (R-NJ) emerged victorious after 44 votes.
The most votes ever taken was 133, back during the 34th Congress from 1855-1857. That process took nearly two months, according to The Washington Post.
Little changed on the House floor Thursday in McCarthy’s quest to become speaker. But there were some new names who were offered by the GOP holdouts, including former President Donald Trump.
The final tally for the fifth ballot of the day was 212 votes for Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 200 votes for McCarthy, 12 for Byron Donalds (R-FL), seven for Kevin Hern (R-OK), and one for Trump. Victoria Spartz (R-IN), who voted for McCarthy on Tuesday, voted “present” Wednesday and Thursday. Spartz indicated she plans to keep voting “present” until clear progress is made toward finding a candidate who can win a majority.
Trump, who is running a third campaign for president, endorsed McCarthy for speaker and has encouraged Republicans to rally behind his man. But in a Truth Social post Thursday evening, Trump shared a photoshopped image of himself sticking his tongue out in the speaker’s chair sitting next to Vice President Kamala Harris and behind President Joe Biden.
Latest from Truth Social: pic.twitter.com/D1zplha27F
— Jenna Ellis 🍊🦅 (@JennaEllisEsq) January 6, 2023
Hern, a businessman-turned-politician, has voted for McCarthy despite receiving votes for speaker. This situation is similar to when some holdouts voted for Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Tuesday, but Jordan kept voting for McCarthy and even nominated McCarthy for one of the ballots.
McCarthy lost one vote starting in the third round of voting Thursday. That is because Ken Buck (R-CO) left for a medical appointment, according to Fox News’ Chad Pergram. Buck may not return until late Friday.
Because of Buck’s absence and Spartz voting “present,” Pergram noted the threshold for a nominee to win the speaker’s gavel drops to 217 votes, but that number decreases if members vote “present,” decline to vote, or are absent.
2) That means the bar under these circumstances in 217 to win an outright majority, voting for someone by name.
Rep.-elect Victoria Spartz (R-IN) continues to vote present
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 5, 2023
The House will continue until someone reaches a majority to become speaker. House members cannot be sworn in until a speaker is chosen, holding up any legislative business and committee assignments in the 118th Congress.
Various media reports indicate a number of reasons for certain Republicans withholding support for McCarthy, including unsatisfied demands for rules changes or personal gains such as certain chairmanships. Some Republicans appear to oppose McCarthy no matter what.
Yet throughout the day Thursday, reporters and House members gave increasingly positive updates on negotiations behind the scenes.
Gram Slattery of Reuters reported sources who said the agreement might win over 10-12 holdouts, which would not be enough to carry McCarthy to victory but would get him closer to a majority. Slattery said the deal included a one-member “motion to vacate” proposal for a vote of no confidence in the speaker.
NEW 🚨🚨 source close to McCarthy has confirmed a deal is on the table
It will NOT be enough to take him over the line. Sources predicted could bring over 10-12 holdouts but that’s a guesstimate. Few details on contents. Includes one-member motion to vacate https://t.co/L8w9J71m5w
— Gram Slattery (@G_Slattery) January 5, 2023
“Every hour has been successively better than the last,” said Patrick McHenry (R-NC) as the fifth ballot of Thursday came to a close, according to The New York Times. “Obviously, we started not at a very high place, but we’re now getting to a very good place.”
After the House adjourned for the night on Thursday, McCarthy signaled he’s in the race for the long haul.
Kevin McCarthy: “So if this takes a little longer and it doesn’t meet your deadline that’s okay. Because it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
Says he is not concerned that one vote for motion to vacate will weaken to him. pic.twitter.com/eGp9vNgneM
— Dylan Wells (@dylanewells) January 6, 2023
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he told reporters.