May 28, 2023
Rep. Kevin McCarthy loses 7th straight House speaker vote as GOP rebels hold firm

Rep. Kevin McCarthy loses 7th straight House speaker vote as GOP rebels hold firm

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Thursday lost a seventh straight vote for speaker of the House as Republican division and dysfunction played out for a third straight day with no end in sight.

Despite McCarthy’s claim that he had made progress in talks with far-right rebels, a third day was no charm as the establishment choice remained far short of the needed majority of those voting.

The final vote count appeared to be very similar to the first six votes.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a key nemesis of McCarthy, voted for former President Donald Trump, a sign that the rebels are seeking to adopt the MAGA mantle despite Trump’s backing of McCarthy.

In a sign of how grim things have gotten for McCarthy, newly elected Rep. John James (R-Mich.) proclaimed “victory” over McCarthy because his allies won a motion to adjourn Wednesday night by a two-vote margin.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. talks to reporters as he walks to the House chamber as the House meets for the third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.

Democrats wasted no time pouring scorn on the hollow claim.

“There is no victory in adjourning without doing the business of the people,” said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), as he nominated newly minted Democratic House leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

McCarthy can afford to lose the votes of no more than four Republican lawmakers to win a majority of those voting, a tall order given that he has lost at least 19 in each of the first six votes.

At least five GOP hardliners are said to be adamantly opposed to backing McCarthy under any circumstances, meaning his hope of a dramatic breakthrough remains wishful thinking for now. Some even want him evicted from the speaker’s plush office inside the Capitol, underlining their disdain for him.

As Republicans squabble, Jeffries denounced the unending Republican “bickering, backbiting and backstabbing.”

“We are ready to go to work for the American people but we need a willing partner on the other side,” said Jeffries, whose district is in Brooklyn.

McCarthy has reportedly offered to cave on a slew of the rebels’ demands, including allowing any one lawmaker to force a no-confidence vote, more seats on the pivotal rules committee for right-wing extremists and big changes to the process of passing spending bills.

But even his backers admit that McCarthy is nowhere near wrapping up enough support to actually win.

If more votes are held without tangible signs that McCarthy is nearing victory, most insiders believe McCarthy will start to lose support, a trend that could force him to throw in the towel at some point.

There have been no serious negotiations yet over a potential fall-back candidate. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Texas) is McCarthy’s top lieutenant and would be the most obvious second choice for his supporters.

The House cannot conduct any business before it elects a speaker, meaning the GOP’s intramural feud is effectively holding Congress hostage.

Democrats have enthusiastically voted unanimously for Jeffries on all six ballots so far. After replacing former Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a no-drama transition, he repeatedly won their 212 votes, besting McCarthy for the highest total.

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