WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy again failed to win the House Speakership Wednesday in a dramatic fourth-round vote as the chamber plunged into the second day of the new Congress with no end in sight for chaos. policy created by GOP conservatives.
McCarthy did no better than he did in the opening day polls as 20 Tory resisters rejected him with their votes. No mind seemed to have changed, and it fell well short of the 218 votes typically needed to win the hammer.
The California Republican has vowed to keep fighting despite losing several rounds of voting that threw the new majority into uproar a day earlier.
The House kicked in at noon, and a McCarthy ally quickly renominated him for the job with a rousing speech designed to ward off critics.
“Of course it looks messy,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. But democracy is messy, he said. “The American people are in charge.”
McCarthy himself walked into the chamber saying, “We’ll have another vote.
But the dynamics were no different from day one, as Democrats reappointed their leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, to speak, and a right-wing Freedom Caucus leader issued a challenge to McCarthy — naming Rep. Byron Donalds, R- Florida, in another historic moment. Jeffries and Donalds are both black.
“This country needs leadership,” said Rep. Chip Roy, the Republican from Texas, noting that for the first time in history two black Americans were nominated for high office, and lawmakers from both parties stood together. stood up to applaud.
It was the first time in 100 years that a candidate for House Speaker could not take the gavel on the first vote, but McCarthy was undeterred. Instead, he vowed to fight to the end, encouraged, he said, by former President Donald Trump to end the disarray and bring the Republican Party together.
Early Wednesday, Trump publicly urged Republicans to vote for McCarthy: “CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” he wrote on his social media site. He added: “REPUBLICANS, DON’T TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT, EMBARRASSING DEFEAT.
The House tried again on Wednesday after Tuesday’s deadlock virtually forced all other business to a standstill, waiting for Republicans to elect a president.
“Is today the day I wanted to have?” No,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday night on Capitol Hill after a series of closed-door meetings. When asked if he would give up, McCarthy replied, “It’s not going to happen.”
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 just think it’s really embarrassing that it’s taken so long,” Biden said. “I have no idea” who will win.
The disorganized start of the new Congress highlighted the difficulties ahead with the Republicans who now control the House.
Tensions flared within the new House majority as their campaign promises fizzled out. Without a speaker, the House cannot fully form itself — swearing in its members, appointing its committee chairs, engaging in floor debates and launching investigations into the Biden administration. The lawmakers’ families had been waiting as what is normally a day of celebration descended into chaos, with children playing in the aisles or squirming in their parents’ arms.
But it was not at all clear how the beleaguered GOP leader could bounce back to win over right-wing conservatives who reject his leadership. It usually takes a majority of the House to become president, 218 votes – although the threshold could drop if members are absent or simply vote present, a strategy McCarthy appeared to be considering.
McCarthy won no more than 203 votes in three ballots, losing as many as 20 Republicans out of his narrow 222-seat majority,
Since 1923, the election of a president has not taken place in several ballots, and the longest and most grueling struggle for the gavel began at the end of 1855 and lasted for two months. , with 133 ballots, during debates on slavery in the run-up to the Civil War. .
“Kevin McCarthy will not be a speaker,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., one of the holdouts.
A new generation of conservative Republicans, many aligned with Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, want to disrupt business as usual in Washington and have pledged to halt McCarthy’s rise without compromising their priorities.
In many ways, the far-right challenge was reminiscent of the last time Republicans took power in the House, when Tea Party Republicans introduced hardline politics and shut down government after taking control of the elections from mid-term of 2010.
As the vote show dragged on, McCarthy supporters implored resisters to line up for the California Republican.
“We all came here to get things done,” second-tier Republican Rep. Steve Scalise said in a speech nominating McCarthy for the ballot and urging his colleagues to drop their protest.
Citing Democratic Chairman Joe Biden’s agenda, Scalise, himself a possible compromise choice for the GOP, said, “We can’t begin to address these issues until we elect Kevin McCarthy our next speaker. .”
But resisters forced a third and final ballot before Republican leaders adjourned promptly Tuesday night.
“The American people are watching, and that’s a good thing,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who named fellow conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as the alternate speaker.
Jordan, McCarthy’s rival-turned-ally, has been pushed twice by the Tories, but he doesn’t seem to want the job. The Ohio Republican is set to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and he rose during the floor debate to urge his colleagues to vote for McCarthy instead.
“We have to rally around him, unite,” Jordan said.
In all, a core group of 19 — then 20 — Republicans voted for someone other than McCarthy. The first ballot sent votes to Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, Jordan and others, while Jordan single-handedly won the votes in the next two ballots.
The impasse over McCarthy has built up since Republicans won a majority in the House in the midterm elections. With the Senate remaining in Democratic hands, House Republicans are eager to take on Biden after two years of Democrat control of both houses of Congress. The conservative Freedom Caucus party has led the opposition to McCarthy, believing he is neither conservative enough nor tough enough to fight the Democrats.
To win support, McCarthy has already agreed to numerous demands from the Freedom Caucus, which has campaigned for rule changes and other concessions that give more grassroots influence in the legislative process. He has been here before, having pulled out of the speakers race in 2015 when he failed to win over the Tories.
Late Tuesday, pizza, Chick-fil-A and tacos were rushed to various Capitol meeting rooms after votes fell through as McCarthy supporters and detractors alike debated how to elect a speaker .
“It’s all on the table,” said McCarthy’s Allied Rep. Patrick McHenry, RN.C. – except, he said, that the chief withdraws. “Not at all. It’s not on the table.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., chairman of the Freedom Caucus and leader of Trump’s efforts to contest the 2020 presidential election, had earlier said it was up to McCarthy to meet their demands and change the dynamic.
Democrats enthusiastically named Jeffries, who takes over as party leader, as their choice for speaker. He won the most total votes, 212.
If McCarthy could win 213 votes and then persuade the remaining opponents to simply vote present, he would be able to lower the threshold required by the rules to have a majority.
It’s a strategy that former House Speakers, including Democratic incumbent Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Speaker John Boehner, had used when they faced the opposition, winning the gavel with less than 218 votes.
McCarthy said Tuesday night on Capitol Hill, “You get 213 votes, and the rest don’t say another name, that’s how you can win.”