House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) struck out three more times Wednesday in his quest to be elected speaker. The chamber voted to adjourn until Wednesday evening, delaying a seventh vote and allowing McCarthy more time to negotiate an elusive compromise and put to an end what has been the longest delayed start of a new Congress in a century.
The motion to adjourn passed after the House clerk read the tally of the sixth ballot for speaker, the sixth time the Republican leader fell short of the votes necessary to win the gavel.
Former President Trump’s series of social media posts Wednesday morning calling for members to back McCarthy had little effect on the outcome, with McCarthy ultimately losing a vote from a member who had previously supported him instead voting present.
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) became the sixth Republican to nominate McCarthy. But for the sixth time, a conservative Republican nominated a McCarthy alternative, with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) rising to nominate Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), his third nomination of the day.
“Let’s work together,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who nominated Donalds in the previous round of voting, said on the House floor. “Let’s stop the campaign smears and tactics to get people to turn against us, even having my favorite president call us and tell us we need to knock this off. I think it actually needs to be reversed. The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, sir, you do not have the votes and it’s time to withdraw.”
The 20 Republicans who had opposed McCarthy in the third vote Tuesday all supported Donalds in subsequent ballots Wednesday. That group included Donalds, who cast votes for himself three times after backing McCarthy on the first and second ballots and supporting Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on the third.
Instead of gaining ground, McCarthy fell further from his goal: His vote total declined with Donalds switching votes and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) voting present.
Trump and President Biden weighed in on the chaotic beginning of the new Congress on Wednesday morning, but neither president appeared to have enough influence to resolve the weeks-long standoff within the House GOP. And with neither side in the Republican conference willing to blink, there’s no immediate end in sight, though the hours-long delay suggests party leaders believe they can reach a resolution by Wednesday evening.
Although some Republicans may agree with Biden’s assessment that the long battle for the speakership is “embarrassing,” no Republican in the chamber is taking cues from a Democratic president.
If Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy was a test of his hold on the House Republican Conference, the vote results suggest he’s lost his grip. Trump, McCarthy and his allies moved zero votes in McCarthy’s favor, casting doubt on his path to becoming speaker, a powerful post that would make McCarthy second in line for the presidency behind the vice president.
Trump posted on Truth Social just hours ahead of the House’s fourth attempt to elect a speaker. McCarthy came up short in his first three attempts to win the post Tuesday, seeing his support erode by one on the final ballot. On that vote, Donalds switched his support to Jordan, who — despite nominating McCarthy for speaker — received six votes on the first ballot, 19 on the second and 20 on the third.
“[I]t’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” Trump wrote. “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB – JUST WATCH!”
In a follow-up post, Trump argued that Republicans “ought to be fighting” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, if they’re going to be fighting within the party at all. “The harm they have done to the Republican Party is incalculable,” Trump said.
McConnell, who became the longest-serving Senate leader in history Tuesday, is set to join Biden later Wednesday at an event in Covington, Ky., to celebrate the bipartisan infrastructure law.
The president told reporters outside the White House that he hopes Republicans “get their act together.”
“It’s a little embarrassing it’s taking so long — and the way they are dealing with one another,” Biden said. “The rest of the world is looking.”
McCarthy left the floor Tuesday afternoon 16 votes shy of the majority needed to win the gavel, becoming the first majority party leader in a century not to win the speakership on the first ballot. By the latest roll call Wednesday, McCarthy hadn’t moved any closer.
The historic defeat stalled members’ swearing-in, GOP committee assignments and a vote on the rules package that will ultimately govern the 118th Congress. Instead, House Republicans put their divisions on display throughout the afternoon, offering a stark contrast to their unified Democratic colleagues across the aisle and even the functioning Senate chamber on the other side of the Capitol.
And even as McCarthy was working the phones from the speaker’s office after the chamber adjourned Tuesday, some of his antagonists took issue. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to the architect of the Capitol, asking, “How long will he remain there before he is considered a squatter?”
“Please write back promptly,” Gaetz added, “as it seems Mr. McCarthy can no longer be considered Speaker-Designate following today’s balloting.”
Trump, who launched an as-yet-underwhelming third run for the presidency in November, had declined to endorse McCarthy’s bid for speaker as recently as Tuesday night in a brief phone call with NBC News, telling a reporter: “We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how it all works out.”
But even Trump’s support seemed soft again by Wednesday afternoon. Shortly after the clerk began accepting nominations for the fourth round of voting, the ex-president seemed to entertain the prospect of Republicans electing an alternative to McCarthy for speaker. Former Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Trump wrote, is a “STONE COLD LOSER!” and “[t]he single WORST person the Republicans could have as Speaker.”
His post made no mention of who would be the best candidate for the post, something a majority of Republicans have yet to agree on as well.