WASHINGTON — House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California on Thursday failed in four more attempts to be elected speaker, extending the saga to determine which Republican will succeed Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The House remains paralyzed, delaying members’ oaths of office, GOP committee assignments, congressional probes and hearings, a rules package and passage of any legislation. Until a speaker is a elected by a majority of the chamber, the House can only vote for a speaker or move to adjourn.
The historic failure puts the 118th Congress on track to tie or pass the 26th Congress for the number of ballots needed to elect a speaker, which required 11 ballots in 1839. The all-time record is 133 ballots, set in 1855-56.
A continued stalemate also risks House Republicans struggling to elect their leader on the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Metal detectors outside the chamber were immediately removed once Republicans formally took control of the chamber this week.
McCarthy signaled to reporters ahead of the seventh ballot — the first of four votes Thursday — that he would again fall short because negotiations with some of his conservative antagonists are ongoing.
Still, McCarthy has yet to convert a single member to his column since the 118th Congress convened for the first time Tuesday and began voting to elect a speaker. In fact, his total vote count has fallen from its height of 203 Tuesday to 200 by the ninth ballot Thursday, when one of one of his supporters missed the roll call.
McCarthy has also lost votes from Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., who has consistently been voted as the top McCarthy alternative; and Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., who began voting “present” Wednesday. Some conservative Republicans began supporting a new alternative on the eighth ballot.
“You see that Kevin McCarthy does not have the votes. You are understanding that he is not going to get there,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., said to colleagues after nominating Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., for speaker on the ninth ballot. “It is not happening, and as it’s been said, we need to get to a point where we start evaluating what life after Kevin McCarthy looks like.”
While announcing her vote on the eighth ballot for Hern, Boebert described him as “a true consensus candidate.”
Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus who have supported an alternative to McCarthy for speaker want him to make more concessions to potentially win them over. The list of asks includes lowering the threshold so that a single member of the House Republican Conference can offer a motion to vacate the chair, a tool that could oust the speaker; placing more Freedom Caucus members and allies on the Rules Committee; and a commitment to hold a vote on term limits legislation for members of Congress.
“Nothing’s agreed to until everything’s agreed to,” McCarthy said Thursday morning.
“A deal is NOT done,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., tweeted Thursday afternoon. “When confidences are betrayed and leaks are directed, it’s even more difficult to trust. Totally unsat(isfied). I will not yield to the status quo.”
McCarthy remains 16 votes shy of being elected speaker. Several members of the so-called “Never Kevin” caucus — which includes Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Boebert — insist they will never support him in a floor vote, calling into question whether he has a plausible path to the job at all.
“You never have to ask me again if I’m a no on Kevin McCarthy,” Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., told reporters. “I will never vote for Kevin McCarthy.”
Although nearly all of the 20 Republicans who have supported McCarthy alternatives on the floor voted for Donalds on the seventh ballot, Gaetz voted for former President Donald Trump. After casting a second vote for Trump on the eighth ballot, Gaetz supported Hern on subsequent ballots.
Some of the conservative rebels have begun sending fundraising emails highlighting their opposition to McCarthy. “We BLOCKED Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker of the House,” read one email from the reelection campaign of Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. “But I am running out of time to win over my colleagues. Can I count on your support as I fight for a conservative Speaker ... and finally put the establishment on notice?”