Unable to choose Republican leader Kevin McCarthy as the new speaker of the House on Tuesday, Republicans adjourned for a chaotic day as the party tried to regroup from its historic defeat after a long, turbulent that start for the new Congress.
The surprise move at the end of Day One showed there was no easy way out for McCarthy whose bid to win the gavel collapsed in opposition to the conservatives. Needing 218 votes in the entire House, McCarthy got just 203 in two rounds – far fewer than Democrat Hakeem Jeffries in the GOP-controlled chamber. Even worse was the third ballot, with McCarthy losing 20 votes as night fell on the new House GOP majority, tensions rising as all other business ground to a halt.
The House agreed to return at noon on Wednesday.
McCarthy promised a “fight on the floor” as long as necessary to overcome the right-wing Republicans who refused to give him their votes. But it’s unclear how the embattled GOP leader can recover after that first House speaker nominee in 100 years to fail to win the race of his party with the majority.
Without a speaker, the House cannot be fully formed – swearing in its members, naming committee chairs, participating in floor proceedings and launching investigations into the Biden administration.
“We all come here to get things done,” said the second-ranking Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise, in a rousing speech urging his colleagues to drop their protest.
Pushing back against President Joe Biden’s agenda, Scalise said, “We can’t start fixing the problems until we elect Kevin McCarthy as our next speaker.”
It’s a tumultuous start to the new Congress and points to a tumultuous road ahead with Republicans now in control of the House. A new generation of conservative Republicans, many aligned with Donald Trump’s MAGA agenda, want to uphold business as usual in Washington, and are committed to ending McCarthy’s rise without the consent of their constituents. priority.
“Americans are watching, and it’s a good thing,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who nominated fellow conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as alternate speaker.
It was the second time conservatives pushed a reluctant Jordan, the McCarthy opponent-turned-ally, who had earlier risen to urge his colleagues, even those who supported him, to cast a vote for McCarthy.
“We have to rally around him, come together,” Jordan said.
Jordan got six votes in the first round, 19 in the second round and is on track to get a similar number in the third.
Smiling through it all, McCarthy mingled briefly with the aides, then appeared intent on just trying to wear down his teammates. Earlier, he entered the room, posed for photos, and received a standing ovation from many on his side of the aisle after being nominated by the third-ranking Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who said the Californian hails from gritty Bakersfield. “has what it takes” to lead House Republicans.
But in the first vote a challenge was quickly raised by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., a conservative former leader of the Freedom Caucus, who was nominated by a fellow conservative as speaker. In all, 19 Republicans defected, denying McCarthy the majority he needed as they voted for Biggs, Jordan or others in protest.
The situation was tense, at least on the Republican side, as lawmakers rose from their seats, high in person to vote. Democrats cheered as they cast their own historic votes for their leader, Rep. Jeffries in New York.
In the first-round tally, McCarthy won 203 votes, with 10 for Biggs and nine for other Republicans. In the second, it was 203 for McCarthy and 19 for Jordan. Democrat Jeffries had the most, 212 votes, but no nominee won a majority.
After a tumultuous private meeting with the GOP, a core group of conservatives led by the Freedom Caucus and aligned with Trump, was outraged, calling the meeting “beaten” by McCarthy’s allies and remaining strong in their opposition to the GOP leader.
“There is one person who can change all of this,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., is the chairman of the Freedom Caucus and a leader in Trump’s effort to challenge the 2020 presidential election.
The group said McCarthy rejected the group’s last offer for rules changes at a meeting Monday at the Capitol.
“If you want to drain the swamp you can’t put the biggest alligator on exercise control,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
“He can get us fired,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.
Lawmakers convene in a new era of divided government as Democrats relinquish control of the House after midterm elections losses. While the Senate remains in Democratic hands, mostly, House Republicans are eager to face President Joe Biden’ after two years of Democratic Party control of both houses of Congress.
Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi closed the final session, moving for new House leadership of her Democratic Party, to a standing ovation from colleagues on her side of the aisle.
The chaplain opened with a prayer seeking to revive the 118th Congress.
But first, House Republicans must elect a speaker, second in line to the presidency.
Even with an endorsement from former President Trump, McCarthy failed.
Democrats enthusiastically chose Jeffries, D-.NY, who has taken over as party leader, as their speaker choice – a mostly symbolic gesture by the minority but one that has taken on new importance as Republicans fray.
“A Latino nominated in this chamber a Black man for our leader for the first time in American history,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, the third-ranking Democrat, to nominate his partner.
A new generation of Trump-aligned Republicans is leading the opposition to McCarthy. They didn’t think he was conservative enough or tough enough to take on the Democrats.
Rep. Dusty Johnson, RS.D., a leader of a more pragmatic conservative group, said “frustration is mounting” in the minority faction.
A viable challenger to McCarthy has yet to emerge.
The second-ranking House Republican, Scalise of Louisiana, would be the next choice, a conservative widely liked by his colleagues and seen by some as a hero after surviving a gunshot wound suffered at a practice game. in baseball in 2017.
A speaker’s competition last went through several rounds in 1923.
This year’s deadlock is in stark contrast to the other side of the Capitol, where Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will officially become the party’s longest-serving leader in history.
Despite being in the minority in the Senate, where Democrats hold a slim 51-49 majority, McConnell could prove a viable partner as Biden seeks bipartisan victories in a new era of divided government. the two men are expected together later in the week in the GOP leader’s home state of Kentucky to celebrate federal infrastructure investment in a key bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio.