The GOP is scrambling after they’ve failed to elect a speaker in two House votes, with 19 Republicans voting against their party leader’s bid.
Kevin McCarthy again failed to secure the votes for speaker in a highly unusual second ballot, as his dozen-plus detractors refused to relent in their push for fresh leadership atop the party.
This time, conservative hero Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) personally urged his colleagues to back McCarthy in a speech before the vote. Instead, 19 Republicans voted for Jordan on the floor — again sending GOP leaders scrambling.
It’s a stunning prolonged chaos on the first day of the new Congress. McCarthy and his allies will now attempt to quell the revolt, preparing members to take repeated votes as pressure mounts from their colleagues. It marked only the second time since the Civil War that a party needs multiple attempts to choose its leader on the House floor — with all business in the chamber, even the swearing-in of members, halted until a speaker is chosen.
McCarthy and his backers are preparing for a grueling, potentially dayslong fight to try to win him the speaker’s gavel — which will require somehow flipping the votes of nearly 20 members who have voted for Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Jordan or others. The California Republican’s allies are vowing to stay on the House floor, instead of trying to adjourn for off-the-floor strategy sessions between ballots, as McCarthy hopes to grind down his opponents.
The GOP leader has picked up a few undecided House Freedom Caucus members, including Reps. Ben Cline (Va.) and Clay Higgins (La.). Rep.-elect Mike Collins (R-Ga.), who had pledged to vote against McCarthy during his campaign, also backed him.
But in the meantime, the House GOP risks a dragged-out floor fight, with no rules of the chamber yet in place. Lawmakers cannot even decide to adjourn without a majority of members in favor. In a tweet moments after McCarthy’s first speaker vote failed, Biggs called on McCarthy to “stand down and allow us to select someone else in the next ballot.”
“The thing we have in front of us right now is Kevin. He’s in. He’s got no plans of leaving. He’ll stay in for months if that’s what it takes,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).
Some members even declared their support on the floor: Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) said, as she cast her first vote, “No matter how many times it takes, Kevin McCarthy.”
Those 19 opposition votes, which stayed at the same number through both votes, came despite fierce pressure from McCarthy and his wide band of allies that he has honed over the years — with some members even vowing to punish defectors by removing them from committees.
“No one in this body has worked harder for this Republican majority than Kevin McCarthy,” New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the No. 3 House Republican, said in a booming floor speech delivered moments before lawmakers began to vote.
“If they think they can ask Kevin McCarthy to strong-arm the rest of us into going somewhere we don’t want to go, they are sorely mistaken. The 5 percent do not get to roll the 95 percent,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), a close ally of McCarthy.
After brewing for years, the revolt against McCarthy materialized on the floor in front of all 434 seated members (with the seat of the late Rep. Don McEachin [D-Va.] still vacant). On a day of plenty of pomp and circumstance, dozens of lawmakers brought squirming children, including at least one crying infant, as they sat through the full roll-call vote.
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