For the first time since before the Civil War, the House held a 10th vote for speaker after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to clinch the gavel across nine ballots.
McCarthy suffered the same disappointment in the 10th round, but there were signs of a deal in the works as the sun set in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
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, which was the third day of voting by members-elect. As many as 20 Republicans have refused to budge in opposing McCarthy, a sufficient number to deny him the speakership.
The final tally for the fourth ballot Thursday was 212 votes for Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 200 votes for McCarthy, 13 for Byron Donalds (R-FL), seven for Kevin Hern (R-OK). It was the tenth ballot total since voting began Tuesday.
Matt Gaetz (R-FL) voted for former President Donald Trump twice before joining two colleagues in supporting Hern. Hern, a businessman-turned-politician, voted for McCarthy. 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.
Victoria Spartz (R-IN), who voted for McCarthy on Tuesday, stuck to her Wednesday trend of voting “present” for the first two ballots Thursday. Spartz indicated she plans to keep voting “present” until progress is made toward finding a candidate who can win a majority.
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.
As the fourth vote on Thursday came to a close, reporters shared that talks behind the scenes may be finalizing a deal that could begin to break the deadlock.
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. He said the deal includes a one-member “motion to vacate” proposal.
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
“Good things are coming. Hold a little longer,” tweeted Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has been voting for McCarthy, after the third vote Thursday.
Good things are coming.
Hold a little longer.
— Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene🇺🇸 (@RepMTG) January 5, 2023
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information.