New title: Kevin McCarthy Fails to Take Lower House Presidency for Third Day In a Row
Twenty right-wing lawmakers have blocked California Rep. Kevin McCarthy from becoming speaker of the US House of Representatives in an ongoing protest, saying he is not committed enough to the conservative cause.
The third day of voting to choose a new leader of the 435-member House of Representatives looked much like the first two days, with McCarthy, a 16-year veteran lawmaker and current House Republican leader, trailing well behind the majority. A total of 201 Republicans supported him in five new rounds of voting Thursday night, the same total he had in some of the previous six ballots on Tuesday and Wednesday, even as he offered new concessions onrules governing House operations to the dissident group in a futile attempt to win them over.
Not even in eleven rounds of voting has McCarthy been able to get the 218 votes needed to achieve his goal of presiding over the House. In the eleventh round, Florida Republican Representative Matt Gaetz even nominated former President Donald Trump, without any other legislators giving him their vote. Nominations for a ninth round of voting are ongoing.
McCarthy has given no indication that he would withdraw from the race to lead the House, a position that under a provision of the US Constitution would make him second in line to the presidency of the country. Republicans hold a narrow 222-212 margin over Democrats in the new session of the 118th Congress, with one current vacancy meaning McCarthy can lose the support of up to four Republicans and still achieve a majority of 218.
McCarthy has already agreed to several of the right-wing lawmakers’ demands, including allowing a single member to call a snap House internal election to vacate the presidency if he doesn’t approve of his legislative policies or the way he oversees the chamber. He also promised them key committee assignments and votes in the House of Representatives on some of his legislative priorities, such as imposing term limits on lawmakers and stricter border controls to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the United States through the southwest border with Mexico.
It’s been 100 years since neither a Republican nor a Democrat won the House presidency in the first round of voting. The election of a speaker in the House is the first order of business for the legislative apparatus when a new session of Congress opens. Without a speaker, the lawmakers, all newly elected or re-elected in last November’s national legislative elections, have not been sworn in. As such, the new Republican majority cannot form House committees to begin considering legislation, launch promised investigations into President Joe Biden’s Democratic administration, or provide services to voters in their constituencies.
Three aspiring leaders of the House national security committees, Congressmen Michael McCaul on foreign affairs, Mike Rogers on the military and Mike Turner on intelligence, are supporters of McCarthy and suggested that the delay in selecting a House chairman the House could endanger the national security of the United States. “We cannot allow personal politics to jeopardize the security of the United States,” the three lawmakers said in a statement.
Wednesday’s fourth vote to try to end the deadlock came hours after former President Donald Trump publicly called for the election of McCarthy as Speaker of the House, a lawmaker he described as “My Kevin.” Trump warned the slim Republican majority “Don’t turn a big win into a big, embarrassing loss. It’s time to celebrate, you deserve it. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a great job, just watch!”
But Trump’s new statement, following calls in recent days to some of the dissidents who oppose McCarthy, had no effect, as he did not change a single vote in favor of McCarthy. Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, part of the anti-McCarthy caucus, told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that Trump “needs to tell Kevin McCarthy, ‘Sir, he doesn’t have the votes and it’s time to retire.’”
Biden said Republican infighting in the House was “not my problem” but added: “I think it’s a little embarrassing that it’s taking so long and the rest of the world is watching. They’re watching you, you know, we have to act together.”
It’s unclear whether McCarthy will be able to persuade enough dissidents to eventually support him. The 20 opponents voted Wednesday for Rep. Byron Donalds, a Florida lawmaker entering his second term in Congress, and did the same in the seventh round of voting. In the eighth round, Donalds got 17 votes and other lawmakers got three votes.
McCarthy, 57, a staunch conservative, has sought for years to lead the House. Over the past few weeks, he has repeatedly met with his Republican enemies to secure their support, but to no avail.
Whoever the Republicans choose will replace outgoing Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who remains a member of the House and voted for Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the new Democratic House minority leader. All 212 Democrats have voted for Jeffries on all eight speaker ballots, but he has no chance of winning as no Republican plans to vote for him to help him reach a majority of 218.
Democrats, who have been caught in a split of 50-50 with Republicans in the Senate in the last two years, they gained an advantage in the national congressional elections almost two months ago and will have a 50-49 majority in the upper house, even after just one go. Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced that she is now an independent, but she would not change her voting philosophy. She has typically voted with Democratic lawmakers and Biden. The new senators were sworn in on Tuesday.