WASHINGTON – Republicans are returning to the Capitol Wednesday to do what they couldn’t do Tuesday: elect a new House speaker. The situation has left Congress paralyzed, since no member of the House of Representatives can be sworn in and no rules can be adopted until a speaker is chosen.
GOP leader Kevin McCarthy failed to secure enough votes from his political party to win the gavel, denied the 218 votes he needed by a cadre of Republican hard-liners in three separate ballots. It was the first time in a century that a speaker was not elected on the first round.
A group of up to 20 conservatives is determined to oppose McCarthy, and the end game remains unclear. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan has emerged as a GOP rival, having drawn the complete support of the anti-McCarthy caucus. But he says he doesn’t want the job and continues to support McCarthy.
Here are the latest developments:
- Trump weighs in. The former president, who is highly popular with the GOP rebels who oppose McCarthy, urged them to rally behind McCarthy. One Trump ally, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said it won’t change his vote.
- McCarthy works behind the scenes. McCarthy is trying a new approach, asking some GOP members who oppose him to vote “present” rather than either endorsing him outright or backing someone else. That could allow him to secure a majority of those casting ballots.
- Action begins at noon. The plan is for members to vote again – and again – if necessary. But if there’s no resolution, the voting could last for days, weeks or even months.
Day One:House adjourns without a new speaker as McCarthy loses three rounds of voting: live updates
What now?:What happens after McCarthy loses speaker vote three times? Here’s how the process works.
Gaetz: Trump won’t change my mind about opposing McCarthy
Matt Gaetz, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump, is saying Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy won’t shake his opposition to the latter’s candidacy for House speaker.
“Sad!” Gaetz said in a Wednesday statement to Fox News Digital. “This changes neither my view of McCarthy nor Trump nor my vote.”
In a Truth Social post hours earlier, Trump hit the all-caps button to say to Republican dissidents: “VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY.”
Gaetz is especially close to Trump; he once endorsed Trump himself for the speaker’s job. If Trump can’t change his mind, it’s hard to see many of the 20 or so opponents of McCarthy changing theirs.
– David Jackson
What about George Santos?
As if the GOP didn’t have enough distractions.
Rep.-elect George Santos, of New York, has been embroiled in controversy after reports found he made up multiple parts of his biography during the 2022 midterm campaign.
The 34-year-old Republican, who is under investigation by New York prosecutors, admitted he lied about his educational achievements, his ancestry and his employment. He was in the chamber Tuesday for the speaker vote and is expected to be there Wednesday.
On the first three ballots, Santos voted for McCarthy. Like all other members of the House, he can take part in the vote for speaker though he won’t be sworn in until after one is chosen.
Trump calls for members to vote for McCarthy
In a new Truth Social post Wednesday morning, Former President Donald Trump called on Republican House members to support Kevin McCarthy.
“Vote for Kevin, close the deal, take the victory,” Trump said in all caps.
He urged Republicans: “Do not turn a great triumph into a giant & embarrassing defeat.”
Trump said it’s time to celebrate, seemingly referring to the GOP’s four-vote majority in the House.
“Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a great job – just watch!” he said in closing.
McCarthy’s most fervent opponents are some of Trump’s biggest supporters. It remains to be seen if they will be swayed by his endorsement Wednesday morning.
What to expect today
The House formally gavels in at noon, but both Republicans and Democrats will be meeting throughout the morning.
On the Republican side, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and his allies are working on two fronts: they are trying to negotiate with his detractors to sway their votes to his side and they’re also trying to get some members to vote “present” rather than for a named candidate. Voting present would ultimately help McCarthy boost his numbers and lower the threshold for which he needs to become speaker.
On the Democratic side, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu will hold a press conference at 10:45 a.m. after their closed caucus meeting that starts at 9 a.m. Look for Democrats to take questions on whether they will help Republicans by having some members absent from the chamber today, lowering the overall voting majority and number McCarthy would need to clinch the speakership.
Last night, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said his caucus is focused on having a working partnership with Republicans to pass bipartisan legislation, but they’re not responsible for helping the GOP get organized.
Once the House gavels in at noon, members-elect could choose to vote again for speaker or adjourn again to allow for more negotiations.
What changed overnight?
Rep. Kevin McCarthy is shifting his strategy to become speaker of the House – or at least he’s shifting the way he’s talking about it.
When a confident, almost defiant, McCarthy spoke during and after a Republican conference meeting Tuesday morning, he had said he wasn’t making any more concessions to appease the most conservative flank of his party and that he had “earned” the speakership.
By Tuesday night at the Capitol, after he had lost three votes to become speaker, he said he wanted all views to be represented on House committees and that negotiations were ongoing between his more than 200 supporters and 20 detractors.
McCarthy also said he had a new path to the speakership. Rather than focusing on the 218 votes needed to win the speakership outright, he mentioned 11 votes last night he needs to flip. A lot of that strategy involves getting some of his 20 dissenters to vote “present” rather than for a named candidate, which would allow him to win the speakership with a lower majority of votes.
What could happen next?
Members will continue to vote — again and again potentially when they come back at noon. The vote could last for days, weeks or months until a speaker candidate receives enough votes. This leaves the House paralyzed since no member can be sworn in, no rules can be adopted and no legislative business can be conducted until a speaker is chosen
McCarthy could drop out of the race for speaker, leaving an opening for another Republican to win the speakership. As of Tuesday afternoon, no McCarthy challengers have come close to gaining enough votes to win the speakership. During the three ballots, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks, former New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and New York Rep. Byron Donalds received votes.
As a last resort, lawmakers could adopt a resolution that would elect a speaker by a plurality or by rank-choice voting instead of a simple majority.
– Rachel Looker
More:McCarthy denied, Santos in House: 5 takeaways from the tumultuous first day of a new Congress
More:What can Congress do about Rep.-elect George Santos, who lied ahead of winning his election?