House Republicans lost a long second day of fruitless voting on Wednesday, unable to choose their leader Kevin McCarthy as House speaker or come up with a new strategy to end the political chaos that marred the start of their new majority.
Yet McCarthy not only didn’t give up, he sounded hopeful after one night’s session.
“No deal yet,” he said as he left a long closed-door meeting with key holdouts. “But a lot of progress.”
No progress was seen at all despite polling day after polling after polling. For the fourth, fifth and sixth time, Republicans tried to elevate McCarthy to the top job as the House grew increasingly disorganized. But the votes produced almost the same result, 20 conservative prevention still refused to support him, leaving him short of the 218 normally required to win the gavel.
In fact, McCarthy saw his support drop to 201, while a fellow Republican switched to voting absent.
Seeing no easy way out of the political standoff, Republicans suddenly voted late in the day to adjourn as they desperately looked for an endgame in the chaos of their own making. They go home in the evening, but the House is standing still.
“I think people need to work a little harder,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think a vote tonight will do anything. But a vote tomorrow will.”
McCarthy, the California The Republican, vowed to continue fighting despite the terrible scene, unlike anything in the modern era, which put the new majority in chaos a day earlier. Animated private discussions erupted on the chamber floor between McCarthy supporters and detractors looking for an endgame.
“Well, it’s Groundhog Day,” said Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., to nominate McCarthy on the sixth ballot.
He said, “To all Americans watching today, We hear you. And we’re going to get this done – no matter how messy it is.”
But right-wing conservatives, led by the Freedom Caucus and aligned with Donald Trump, appear to be emboldened by the standoff — even though Trump has publicly supported McCarthy,
“This is truly a refreshing day for America,” said Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who was nominated three times by his conservative colleagues as an alternative. “There are many members in the chamber who want to have serious conversations about how we can get this all done and elect a speaker.”
The House adjourned at noon, but no other work could be done – swearing in new members, forming committees, dealing with legislation, investigating the Biden administration – until the speaker was elected.
“I still have the most votes,” McCarthy said at the start of the session. “At the end of the day, we’ll get there.”
But the dynamic proved to be no different from Day One, as the Democrats changed their leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, for the speaker, and Donalds offered his challenge to McCarthy for another chance to make history. Both Jeffries and Donalds are Black.
“This country needs leadership,” said Rep. Chip Roy, the Texas Republican marked the first time in history two Black Americans were nominated for high office, and lawmakers from both parties rose to applaud.
It was the first time of 100 years that a nominee for House speaker does not get the gavel on the first vote, but McCarthy appeared undeterred. However, he vowed to fight to the end.
The disorganized start to the new Congress points to difficulties ahead for Republicans who now control the House.
President Joe Biden, leaving the White House for a bipartisan event in Kentucky with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, said “the rest of the world is watching” the scene on the House floor. .
“I think it’s a shame it’s taken so long,” Biden said. “I have no idea” who will prevail.
Tensions flared with the new majority in the House as their campaign promises stalled. Not since 1923 has the election of a speaker gone to so many ballots, and the longest and hardest fight for the gavel began in late 1855 and dragged on for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates about slavery during the Civil War. .
A new generation of conservative Republicans, many aligned with Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, want to upend business as usual in Washington, and are committed to ending McCarthy’s rise without the consent of their constituents. priority.
But even Trump’s staunchest supporters disagree on this issue. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a staunch Colorado conservative who nominated Donald for a second term, called on the former president to tell McCarthy, “`Sir, you don’t have the votes and it’s time to step back.'”
On Wednesday, Trump did the opposite, urging Republicans to vote for McCarthy. “Close the deal, get the win,” he wrote on his social media site, using all capital letters. “Don’t turn a great victory into a giant and humiliating defeat.”
As the voting scene continued, McCarthy’s supporters pleaded with holdouts to elect the California Republican.
“I think members on both sides of this are getting a lot of pressure right now,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. “So I think the message from home is, ‘Hey, settle these things, we don’t have time for petty things and egos.'”
The standoff with McCarthy has been building since Republicans won a majority in the House in the midterm elections. While the Senate remains in Democratic hands, mostly, House Republicans are eager to face Biden after two years of Democratic control of both houses of Congress. The conservative Freedom Caucus led the opposition to McCarthy, believing that he was not conservative or strong enough to fight the Democrats.
To win support, McCarthy has agreed to many of the demands of the Freedom Caucus, which has been agitating for rule changes and other concessions that give rank-and-file members more influence on the legislative process. He’s been here before, bowing out of the speaker’s race in 2015 when he failed to win over the conservatives.
“Everything is on the table,” said ally Rep. Patrick McHenry, RN.C. – except, he said, taking McCarthy aside. “Not at all. That’s off the table.”
Democrats enthusiastically chose Jeffries, who had taken over as party leader, as their speaker of choice. He won the most votes overall, 212.
If McCarthy wins 213 votes, and then convinces the remaining naysayers to vote anyway, he can lower the threshold required under the rules to have a majority.
It’s a strategy used in the past by House speakers, including outgoing Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Speaker John Boehner when they faced opposition, winning the gavel by fewer than 218 votes.
A Republican, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, voted to be present in several rounds, but it did not make a difference in the immediate result.