Hours after former President Donald Trump urged Republican members of the House of Representatives to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy as their new speaker, the party failed to muster enough votes to do so Wednesday afternoon.
In a fourth consecutive ballot since Tuesday, McCarthy, R-Calif., did not clear the 218-vote threshold required to be named speaker. In fact, despite Trump’s appeal Wednesday morning to Republicans to support McCarthy, McCarthy received one fewer votes of support on Wednesday than he had the day before. On the fourth ballot for speaker, McCarthy received 201 votes, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., received 212 votes and Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., got 20.
Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., voted “present” on the fourth ballot, a decision that decreased McCarthy’s vote total by one.
As the sting of McCarthy’s fourth straight defeat was still settling in, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., formally nominated Donalds for the speaker position ahead of a fifth vote. In her remarks, she offered a message to Trump.
“The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that you do not have the votes and it’s time to withdraw,” she said.
After staying quiet on Tuesday as McCarthy failed to secure enough votes for the speakership on three separate ballots, paralyzing the chamber on the first day of the new congressional session, Trump posted a message on his social media platform urging Republicans to put their support behind McCarthy.
“Some really good conversations took place last night,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social. “And it’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY, & WATCH CRAZY NANCY PELOSI FLY BACK HOME TO A VERY BROKEN CALIFORNIA.”
“REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT,” Trump added. “IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB — JUST WATCH!”
With his Republican opposition dug in, it is unclear how McCarthy hopes to still become speaker. He can afford just four “no” votes from his caucus, and there is little sign that those against appointing him speaker are ready to budge. On the first ballot he lost 19 Republican votes. On the second ballot he lost 19 votes again. On the third and fourth he lost 20.
Among those voting against McCarthy were a cadre of hard-right lawmakers who have nursed grudges against him for years, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who sent a letter to the architect of the Capitol asking why McCarthy is currently occupying the speaker’s office.
Gaetz was among the first to respond to Trump’s day-two endorsement. “Sad!” he said in a statement to Fox News. “This changes neither my view of McCarthy, nor Trump, nor my vote.”
The vote for speaker will continue for an indefinite number of additional ballots until a candidate can secure a majority.
Ahead of Wednesday’s vote, McCarthy said he planned to continue his quest to be named to the top leadership position, which would require convincing dissenting Republicans or Democrats to support his candidacy. Another lawmaker, such as the House GOP’s No. 2, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., could also emerge as a consensus pick.
McCarthy told reporters late Tuesday that he had spoken with Trump, who he said “reiterated his support.”
McCarthy, who served as the minority leader, wooed his GOP critics by endorsing rule changes, including making it easier for a smaller group of members to challenge the leadership in a procedure known as vacating the chair. The California Republican, who had lost a bid for speaker in 2015, urged the party to support him in a closed-door meeting earlier Tuesday, saying, “I earned this job.”