Bringing Down The House: McCarthy Falters In Quest To Become Speaker

Multiple votes for House speaker ended with no winner Tuesday, leaving House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) latest attempt to take the gavel in doubt as night fell in the nation’s capital.

In an effort to break the stalemate, after the House adjourned until noon Wednesday, McCarthy reportedly started making calls ahead of an expected House GOP conference meeting in the morning. “We stay in until we win,” McCarthy told reporters while the third and final vote of the day was underway. The numbers “will change eventually,” he added before stating to CNN, “I know the path.”

Votes will continue for however many days it takes until a speaker is elected. Until then, House members cannot be sworn in, holding up any legislative business and committee assignments in the 118th Congress, per Axios.

Though McCarthy remains defiant in his quest to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as speaker, one of his most high profile backers, former President Donald Trump, refused to say during a Tuesday evening interview whether he still supports McCarthy’s faltering bid. The turmoil follows McCarthy’s ill-fated 2015 run for speaker, which ended with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) ascending to the role after McCarthy dropped out upon being rejected by a group of hard-line conservatives.

The threshold for a nominee to win the speaker’s gavel is 218 votes, but that number could decrease if members vote “present,” decline to vote, or are absent. After a weaker-than-expected 2022 midterm election, House Republicans have little wiggle room with a 222-seat majority in this new session of Congress. Over the past few days, McCarthy offered concessions to woo conservatives, including making it easier to remove the sitting speaker of the House. Despite his overtures, nine House Republicans signed an open letter Monday opposing McCarthy’s bid, saying “specific commitments” were unfulfilled.

On Tuesday, Democrats voted as a bloc to support Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) with 212 votes for speaker, while McCarthy only earned as many as 203 votes. Nineteen Republican holdouts in the first two rounds were joined by Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) during the third vote.

“The reality is Rep. Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have the votes,” Donalds tweeted after the third vote. “I committed my support to him publicly and for two votes on the House Floor. 218 is the number, and currently, no one is there.” Donalds called for a recess to allow the Republican conference to “huddle and find someone or work out the next steps.”

The reality is Rep. Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have the votes. I committed my support to him publicly and for two votes on the House Floor. 218 is the number, and currently, no one is there. Our conference needs to recess and huddle and find someone or work out the next steps…(1/3)

— Congressman Byron Donalds (@RepDonaldsPress) January 3, 2023

After the first round, all GOP defectors have rallied behind Jim Jordan (R-OH). Jordan, who is poised to become chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, so far has supported McCarthy, and even nominated McCarthy in the second ballot. Jordan said Tuesday there is “no” chance he will become speaker.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), a former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, has presented himself as an alternative candidate to McCarthy, but mustered only 10 votes in the first round Tuesday before the holdouts settled on Jordan. 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.

The Republicans holdouts beyond Donalds included Biggs, Dan Bishop (NC), Lauren Boebert (CO), 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).

Bacon refers to me as the “Taliban”

Well….as hurtful and false as that is….I too am prepared for an extended battle that I will ultimately win. https://t.co/zW7fLqj6tr

— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) January 3, 2023

Divisions within the GOP conference are boiling to “anger,” according to Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), who called these members the “Taliban 19, Taliban 20,” and claimed they have given “nothing in return” for concessions made by McCarthy, as reported by Fox News’ Chad Pergram.

Gaetz shot back on Twitter, saying, “Well….as hurtful and false as that is….I too am prepared for an extended battle that I will ultimately win.”

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