WASHINGTON – GOP leader Kevin McCarthy appears to have lost a fourth bid to become House speaker, as Republicans returned to the Capitol Wednesday to do what they couldn’t do Tuesday: elect a new House speaker. The situation has left Congress paralyzed, since no member of the House of Representatives can be sworn in and no rules can be adopted until a speaker is chosen.
The House remained stuck after McCarthy was nominated, for a fourth time in two days, for the top job in that chamber. He appears to have failed again to have secured that job.
On Tuesday, GOP leader Kevin McCarthy failed to secure enough votes from his political party to win the gavel, denied the 218 votes he needed by a cadre of Republican hard-liners in three separate ballots. It was the first time in a century that a speaker was not elected on the first round.
A group of up to 20 conservatives is determined to oppose McCarthy, and the end game remains unclear. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan has emerged as a GOP rival, having drawn the complete support of the anti-McCarthy caucus. But he says he doesn’t want the job and continues to support McCarthy.
Here are the latest developments:
McCarthy nominated, again. The action began around noon, with McCarthy nominated for a fourth time in two days.
Biden calls the situation embarrassing. The fighting is “not a good look,” he told reporters at the White House. Ultimately, though, the GOP drama isn’t his problem, he said.
McCarthy works behind the scenes. McCarthy is trying a new approach, asking some GOP members who oppose him to vote “present” rather than either endorsing him outright or backing someone else. That could allow him to secure a majority of those casting ballots.
The plan. The plan is for members to vote again – and again – if necessary. But if there’s no resolution, the voting could last for days, weeks or even months.
McCarthy appears to lose fourth ballot
The outlook for Kevin McCarthy grew dimmer Wednesday afternoon when the House GOP leader appeared to have lost his bid for speaker a fourth consecutive time.
It was a crucial vote for McCarthy, who after losing three times yesterday worked to find a path forward today. He and his allies have tried to both sway his opponents and also persuade some of them to vote “present,” making it easier for him to win with a lower voting majority.
On Wednesday, it was evident McCarthy did little to advance when he did not pick up any votes.
Gallagher nominates McCarthy for speaker
Rep. Mike Gallagher. a Wisconsin Republican, nominated House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy for speaker – his fourth nomination in two days.
“I wish we had a bigger majority,” Gallagher said, “but the American people gave us an opportunity.”
McCarthy is not asking for a vote to keep business as usual, Gallagher said. The leader wants to do the people’s business, he said.
Gaetz challenges McCarthy over office space
It’s really gotten personal between aspiring House Speaker McCarthy and conservative critic Matt Gaetz.
Gaetz has asked the Architect of the Capitol to investigate McCarthy for moving stuff into the Speaker of the House’s suite of offices, even though he failed to actually win the job during three ballots on Tuesday.
“How long will he remain there before he is considered a squatter?” the Florida Republican said in a letter to the architect’s office.
Another McCarthy opponent, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, re-tweeted Gaetz’s complaint and amplified the itinerant metaphor: “McCarthy is squatting in the Speaker’s office.”
For his part, McCarthy and his allies have criticized Gaetz for saying he would rather see Democrat Hakeem Jeffries win the speaker’s job than McCarthy.
Stay tuned for more news about McCarthy’s political future – and his office.
– David Jackson
Mike Pence chimes in, urges House GOP to elect McCarthy as speaker
Former Vice President Mike Pence offered his perspective on McCarthy’s battle, urging House Republicans “to support my friend, Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker of the House.”
“@GOPLeader’s (McCarthy’s) leadership & vision led to the new Republican majority & I know Speaker McCarthy will lead the House to begin a great American comeback!” Pence tweeted.
— Ken Tran
Aguilar: ‘Crisis of the Congress’
Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, the House Democratic Caucus chair, reiterated support for Jeffries Wednesday morning and said he will be nominating Jeffries during the speaker votes this afternoon. All 212 Democrats voted for Jeffries Tuesday during the three ballots.
“This is a crisis of the congress,” Aguilar said of yesterday’s proceedings.
He added that Democrats have not had any outreach with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
California Rep. Ted Lieu said the speakership position has already weakened from the inability of the Republican caucus to unite and select a speaker, noting that Democrats are also at a standstill and can’t appoint members to committees.
“They’ve already weakened that position,” Lieu said of the speakership, referencing McCarthy’s concessions including the motion to vacate.
– Rachel Looker and Sarah Elbeshbishi
‘The rest of the world is looking’: Biden calls GOP House speaker fight ‘embarrassing’
President Joe Biden called Republicans’ fight over electing a new House speaker “embarrassing,” “not a good look” and “not my problem” as he sought to contrast the chaos in House with a focus on governing.
“I hope they get their act together,” Biden told reporters Wednesday, adding that “the rest of the world is looking” and he is focused on “getting things done.”
Biden, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, was en route to Kentucky. There he will appear with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and other officeholders of both parties to promote bipartanship by showcasing a major bridge project funded by federal infrastructure dollars.
— Joey Garrison
Gaetz: Trump won’t change my mind about opposing McCarthy
Matt Gaetz, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, is saying Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy won’t shake his opposition to the latter’s candidacy for House speaker.
“Sad!” Gaetz said in a Wednesday statement to Fox News Digital. “This changes neither my view of McCarthy nor Trump nor my vote.”
In a Truth Social post hours earlier, Trump hit the all-caps button to say to Republican dissidents: “VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY.”
Gaetz is especially close to Trump; he once endorsed Trump himself for the speaker’s job. If Trump can’t change his mind, it’s hard to see many of the 20 or so opponents of McCarthy changing theirs.
– David Jackson
What about George Santos?
As if the GOP didn’t have enough distractions.
Rep.-elect George Santos, of New York, has been embroiled in controversy after reports found he made up multiple parts of his biography during the 2022 midterm campaign.
The 34-year-old Republican, who is under investigation by New York prosecutors, admitted he lied about his educational achievements, his ancestry and his employment. He was in the chamber Tuesday for the speaker vote and is expected to be there Wednesday.
On the first three ballots, Santos voted for McCarthy. Like all other members of the House, he can take part in the vote for speaker though he won’t be sworn in until after one is chosen.
Trump calls for members to vote for McCarthy
In a new Truth Social post Wednesday morning, Former President Donald Trump called on Republican House members to support Kevin McCarthy.
“Vote for Kevin, close the deal, take the victory,” Trump said in all caps.
He urged Republicans: “Do not turn a great triumph into a giant & embarrassing defeat.”
Trump said it’s time to celebrate, seemingly referring to the GOP’s four-vote majority in the House.
“Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a great job – just watch!” he said in closing.
McCarthy’s most fervent opponents are some of Trump’s biggest supporters. It remains to be seen if they will be swayed by his endorsement Wednesday morning.
What to expect today
The House formally gavels in at noon, but both Republicans and Democrats will be meeting throughout the morning.
On the Republican side, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and his allies are working on two fronts: they are trying to negotiate with his detractors to sway their votes to his side and they’re also trying to get some members to vote “present” rather than for a named candidate. Voting present would ultimately help McCarthy boost his numbers and lower the threshold for which he needs to become speaker.
On the Democratic side, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu will hold a press conference at 10:45 a.m. after their closed caucus meeting that starts at 9 a.m. Look for Democrats to take questions on whether they will help Republicans by having some members absent from the chamber today, lowering the overall voting majority and number McCarthy would need to clinch the speakership.
Last night, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said his caucus is focused on having a working partnership with Republicans to pass bipartisan legislation, but they’re not responsible for helping the GOP get organized.
Once the House gavels in at noon, members-elect could choose to vote again for speaker or adjourn again to allow for more negotiations.
What changed overnight?
Rep. Kevin McCarthy is shifting his strategy to become speaker of the House – or at least he’s shifting the way he’s talking about it.
When a confident, almost defiant, McCarthy spoke during and after a Republican conference meeting Tuesday morning, he had said he wasn’t making any more concessions to appease the most conservative flank of his party and that he had “earned” the speakership.
By Tuesday night at the Capitol, after he had lost three votes to become speaker, he said he wanted all views to be represented on House committees and that negotiations were ongoing between his more than 200 supporters and 20 detractors.
McCarthy also said he had a new path to the speakership. Rather than focusing on the 218 votes needed to win the speakership outright, he mentioned 11 votes last night he needs to flip. A lot of that strategy involves getting some of his 20 dissenters to vote “present” rather than for a named candidate, which would allow him to win the speakership with a lower majority of votes.
What could happen next?
Members will continue to vote — again and again potentially when they come back at noon. The vote could last for days, weeks or months until a speaker candidate receives enough votes. This leaves the House paralyzed since no member can be sworn in, no rules can be adopted and no legislative business can be conducted until a speaker is chosen
McCarthy could drop out of the race for speaker, leaving an opening for another Republican to win the speakership. As of Tuesday afternoon, no McCarthy challengers have come close to gaining enough votes to win the speakership. During the three ballots, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, former New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and New York Rep. Byron Donalds received votes.
As a last resort, lawmakers could adopt a resolution that would elect a speaker by a plurality or by rank-choice voting instead of a simple majority.
– Rachel Looker
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live updates: Kevin McCarthy appears to have lost his 4th bid for speaker of the House