WASHINGTON – House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy lost the sixth round of votes on Wednesday to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives, emphasizing the turmoil within the House GOP ranks.
McCarthy faced fierce opposition from within the Republican caucus, as 19 members defected in the first round, which took place on Tuesday. Ten voted for Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, and nine members voted for others.
It was the first time since 1923 that the House did not elect a speaker at the first round of votes.
As a result, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, who received all the votes of his caucus, finished first with 212 – still not enough to cross the 218 threshold and hold the gavel. McCarthy arrived second with just 203 votes out of the Republicans’ 222.
The House then moved to a second round of votes – but the result did not change. Jeffries finished again with 212 votes and McCarthy arrived second again with 203, while Republican Jim Jordan of Ohio received 19 votes and arrived third.
Following a failed third round, Republicans decided to adjourn the House session for an additional day, leaving more time for McCarthy and his allies to negotiate with a group from the right wing of the GOP who opposed his candidacy, yet to no avail.
Statements from Republicans in and out of government
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz told reporters after the House was adjourned: “Those of us who will not be voting for Kevin McCarthy today take no joy in this discomfort that this moment has brought, but if you want to ‘drain the swamp,’ you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise.”
He said that he and other members who opposed McCarthy tried to negotiate with him on several issues, including term limits, but the Republican leader refused. “Time and again, his viewpoints, his positions – they shift like sand underneath you.”
Former US president Donald Trump released a statement in support of McCarthy as well, calling on House Republicans not to “turn a great triumph into a giant and embarrassing defeat.”
Nevertheless, in the fourth round, McCarthy’s opposition grew, as 20 members voted for a third candidate – Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds – and one additional member voted “present.”
As the stalemate continued to drag down, Republican Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio nominated McCarthy for the fifth round of votes, warning his members that “at this time, we really risk the worst outcome if we can’t unite behind the man that has helped us achieve… substantive reforms that our voters have demanded.”
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado nominated Donalds for the fifth round, saying – in an apparent reference to Trump’s statement – that her “favorite president” needs to tell McCarthy: “Sir, you don’t have the votes and it’s time to withdraw.”