The decade's most triggering comedy
After House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suffered defeat six times in two days in his quest to become speaker, the lower chamber adjourned until Thursday.
The House narrowly voted Wednesday evening to go back into session at noon in Washington, D.C., giving members-elect more time to negotiate for a candidate who can secure a majority for the gavel. As of press time, McCarthy does not appear to have a deal to break the deadlock, but is not backing down either.
“I don’t think a vote tonight will make a difference,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday evening, “but a vote in the future will.”
Votes will continue for however many days it takes until a speaker is elected. House members cannot be sworn in until a speaker is chosen, holding up any legislative business and committee assignments in the 118th Congress. The threshold for a nominee to win the speaker’s gavel is 218 votes, but that number decreases if members vote “present,” decline to vote, or are absent.
Across two days of speaker votes, Democrats voted as a bloc to support Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) with 212 votes, while McCarthy only earned as many as 203 votes despite Republicans holding the majority.
In fact, McCarthy’s numbers have decreased slightly — to 201 — as more votes were held. Twenty Republican defectors have rallied behind Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), who is starting his second term in Congress. Donalds stopped voting for McCarthy after two ballots and while Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) voted for McCarthy on Tuesday, she began voting “present” on Wednesday.
“We have a constitutional duty to elect the Speaker of the House, but we have to deliberate further as a Republican conference until we have enough votes and stop wasting everyone’s time,” Spartz said in a statement Wednesday. “None of the Republican candidates have this number yet. That’s why I voted present after all votes were cast.”
Former President Donald Trump sought to give McCarthy a boost before voting began Wednesday. “It’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” Trump said in a Truth Social post.
In nominating Donalds in the second ballot Wednesday, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) urged Trump to reconsider his endorsement of McCarthy.
“The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, ‘Sir, you do not have the votes and it’s time to withdraw,’” Boebert said.
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 4, 2023
After three votes on Tuesday, Trump called on House Republicans to rally behind his man. Trump mentioned Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who, after decades of leading the House Democrats, stood down for this new term to allow Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to take her place.
“It’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB – JUST WATCH!”
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 4, 2023
The other Republican holdouts include Reps. Andy Biggs (AZ), Dan Bishop (NC), Josh Brecheen (OK), Mike Cloud (TX), Andrew Clyde (GA), Eli Crane (AZ), Matt Gaetz (FL), Bob Good (VA), Paul Gosar (AZ), Andy Harris (MD), Anna Paulina Luna (FL), Mary Miller (IL), Ralph Norman (SC), Andy Ogles (TN), Scott Perry (PA), Matt Rosendale (MT), Chip Roy (TX), and Keith Self (TX).
Various media reports indicate a number of reasons for them 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.
While the House took an hours-long recess on Wednesday, negotiators reached at least one breakthrough pushed by Roy, according to CNN’s Manu Raju.
The McCarthy-aligned Super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund reached a deal with the Club for Growth to support McCarthy in exchange for CLF agreeing not to spend money or resources in any open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts.
McCarthy-aligned big spender CLF and right-wing Club For Growth say they have a deal to jointly support McCarthy for Speaker.
“CLF will not spend in any open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts and CLF will not grant resources to other super PAC's to do so,” it says. pic.twitter.com/p9FZ1QGtiD
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) January 5, 2023
With McCarthy’s quest to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as speaker in doubt, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) told CNN on Wednesday that McCarthy “needs to make a deal … or he needs to step aside.”
As McCarthy’s fifth bid for speaker fails in The House, GOP @RepKenBuck tells CNN he told the embattled GOP congressman that he "needs to make a deal… or he needs to step aside.” I pressed Buck on whether he sees a viable path for another possible candidate: Rep. Steve Scalise. pic.twitter.com/z7nAuufSjB
— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) January 4, 2023
In another CNN interview, Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) said that “preliminary” talks with Democrats have begun for a “consensus candidate,” according to The Hill. Democrats have also suggested a deal to make McCarthy speaker, though likely at the cost of more GOP votes, per Bloomberg.
Other names that have been floated as possible candidates include Louisiana’s Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), and even newly-retired Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), as a speaker does not have to be an elected member of the House. Before settling on Donalds, the GOP defectors coalesced behind Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who so far has voted for McCarthy.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information.