Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy failed in three ballots to become Speaker of the House, a historic defeat with no clear outcome as House Republicans dig for a long and messy start for the new Congress.
- Mr McCarthy is the lead candidate to replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi but is struggling to win the support of a small group to the right of his party
- Even with former President Trump’s endorsement, Mr McCarthy fell short
- He became the first candidate in 100 years not to win the gavel from his fellow party members in the initial vote.
The House adjourned for the day without voting for a new Speaker, agreeing to reconvene Wednesday noon (local time).
Needing 218 votes in the House as a whole, Mr McCarthy got just 203 in two rounds – even less than Democrat Hakeem Jeffries in the GOP-controlled chamber.
A third ballot was even worse, with Mr. McCarthy losing 20 votes as night fell on the new House GOP majority, with tensions mounting as all other business stalled.
Mr McCarthy had promised a ‘battle on the ground’ for as long as it took to defeat fellow right-wing Republicans who refused to give him their votes.
But it was not at all clear how the embattled GOP leader could bounce back after becoming the first House presidential candidate in 100 years not to win the gavel from his fellow party members in the initial vote.
Before the second vote, McCarthy’s rival-turned-ally, conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who got six votes in the first round, rose to urge his colleagues to drop their opposition.
“We have to rally around him, unite,” Mr. Jordan said of Mr. McCarthy.
Mr. Jordan got six votes in the first round, 19 in the second round and 20 in the third.
Without a speaker, the House cannot fully form itself — swearing in its members, appointing its committee chairs, engaging in floor debates and launching investigations into the Biden administration.
“We all came here to get things done,” second-tier Republican Steve Scalise said in a rousing speech urging his colleagues to drop their protest.
Invoking President Joe Biden’s agenda, Mr Scalise said: ‘We cannot begin to address these issues until we elect Kevin McCarthy our next speaker.’
It was a bumpy start for the new Congress and marked a tangled road with Republicans now in control of the House.
A new generation of conservative Republicans, many aligned with Donald Trump’s MAGA agenda, want to disrupt business as usual in Washington and have pledged to halt Mr McCarthy’s rise without concessions to their priorities.