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McCarthy Fails for 3rd Long Day in GOP House Speaker Stalemate

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, right, talks with Rep.-elect Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., during the eighth round of voting, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. (AP/Alex Brandon)
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Pressure was building as McCarthy lost seventh, eighth, and then historic ninth and 10th rounds of voting, surpassing the number it took the last time this happened, 100 years ago, in a prolonged fight to choose a speaker in a disputed election.

Ballots so far have produced almost the same outcome, 20 conservative holdouts still refusing to support McCarthy and leaving him far short of the 218 typically needed to win the gavel.

In fact, McCarthy saw his support slipping to 201, as one fellow Republican switched to vote simply present, and later to 200. With just a 222-seat GOP majority, he could not spare detractors.

Capitol Attack Anniversary Is Friday

The new Republican majority was not expected to be in session on Friday, which is the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. A prolonged and divisive speaker’s fight would almost certainly underscore the fragility of American democracy after the attempted insurrection two years ago.

With McCarthy’s supporters and foes locked in stalemate, feelings of boredom and desperation seemed increasingly evident with no quick end in sight.

One McCarthy critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, cast votes in two rounds for Donald Trump, a symbolic but pointed sign of the broader divisions over the Republican Party’s future.

“It’s not happening,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado who nominated a new alternative, Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, and urged fellow Republicans to embrace a future without McCarthy: “We need a leader who is not of the broken system.”

McCarthy could be seen talking, one on one, in whispered conversations in the House chamber, and met privately earlier with colleagues determined to persuade Republican holdouts to end the paralyzing debate that has blighted his new GOP majority.

“We’re having good discussions and I think everyone wants to find a solution,” McCarthy told reporters shortly before the House gaveled in its third session Thursday.

Some in GOP Uncomfortable With the Chaos

Some Republicans appeared to be growing increasingly uneasy with the way the party has taken charge after the midterm elections only to see the chamber upended over the speaker’s race in their first days in the new majority.

Colorado Republican Ken Buck voted for McCarthy but said Wednesday that he told him “he needs to figure out how to make a deal to move forward” or eventually step aside for someone else.

The right-flank conservatives, led by the Freedom Caucus and aligned with former President Trump, appeared emboldened by the standoff — even though Trump publicly backed McCarthy.

The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to difficulties ahead with Republicans now in control of the House, much the way that some past Republican speakers, including John Boehner, had trouble leading a rebellious right flank. The result: government shutdowns, standoffs, and Boehner’s early retirement.

The longest fight for the gavel started in late 1855 and dragged on for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.

Bitter GOP Feud

Despite endless talks, signs of concessions, and a public spectacle unlike any other in recent political memory, the path ahead remained highly uncertain. What started as a political novelty, the first time since 1923 a nominee had not won the gavel on the first vote, has devolved into a bitter Republican Party feud and deepening potential crisis.

Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York was re-nominated by Democrats. He has won the most votes on every ballot but also remained short of a majority.

Republican Party holdouts repeatedly put forward the name of Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, assuring the stalemate that increasingly carried undercurrents of race and politics would continue.

Donalds, who is Black, is seen as an emerging party leader and GOP counterpoint to the Democratic leader, Jeffries, who is the first Black leader of a major political party in the U.S. Congress and is on track himself to become speaker someday.

Rep. John James, R-Mich., nominates Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., for Speaker for the seventh round of voting in 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. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

Another Black Republican, newly elected John James, nominated McCarthy on the seventh ballot. Republican Brian Mast of Florida, a veteran, appeared to wipe away a tear as he nominated McCarthy on the eighth, and insisted the California Republican was not like past GOP speakers who are derided by conservatives. For the ninth ballot, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, Troy Nehls of Texas, made the nomination.

“This battle we are waging must end,” Nehls told his colleagues.

Donalds was the holdouts’ choice, nominated this round by staunch McCarthy opponent Matt Rosendale of Montana.

McCarthy is under growing pressure from restless Republicans, and Democrats, to find the votes he needs or step aside, so the House can open fully and get on with the business of governing.

The incoming Republican chairmen of the House’s Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees all said national security was at risk.

“The Biden administration is going unchecked and there is no oversight of the White House,” Republicans Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers, and Mike Turner wrote in a joint statement. “We cannot let personal politics place the safety and security of the United States at risk.”

List of Republicans Blocking McCarthy’s Speaker Bid

Here’s a list of GOP House members opposed to McCarthy as House leader:

Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.)

Rep. Dan Bishop (N.C.)

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.)

Rep.-elect Josh Brecheen (Okla.)

Rep. Michael Cloud (Texas)

Rep.-elect Eli Crane (Ariz.)

Rep. Andrew Clyde (Ga.)

Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.)

Rep. Bob Good (Va.)

Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.)

Rep. Andy Harris (Md.)

Rep.-elect Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.)

Rep. Mary Miller (Ill.)

Rep. Ralph Norman (S.C.)

Rep.-elect Andy Ogles (Tenn.)

Rep. Scott Perry (Pa.)

Rep. Matt Rosendale (Mont.)

Rep. Chip Roy (Texas)

Rep.-elect Keith Self (Texas)

(GV Wire contributed to this report.)

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