Kevin McCarthy Again Falls Short In House’s 7th Try At Speaker Vote — Update


UPDATE: Kevin McCarthy failed to draw a majority in the seventh House speaker vote, as negotiations with a group of GOP holdouts to his leadership have yet to show movement in his direction.

The major difference in the latest round of voting was a ballot cast for former President Donald Trump by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). But it was the only vote that Trump garnered, even though a speakership has been one scenario floated by some of his staunchest allies.

The vote was 212 for Democrat Hakeem Jeffries, 201 for McCarthy, 19 for Byron Donalds and one for Trump. There was a smattering of boos and applause when Trump’s name was read.

Members are moving on to the 8th vote.

PREVIOUSLY: Kevin McCarthy was poised to come up short in a 7th House vote for speaker again on Thursday, as the House returned for the third day of a stalled Congress.

As a roll call proceeded after noon ET/9 AM PT, enough votes had been cast for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) to deny McCarthy the majority he needs.

He and his allies worked last evening and this morning to try to formulate a series of concessions demanded by some of the holdouts, with reports that they include a rules provision that could limit his power. It would essentially allow any one member to introduce a resolution to remove him during the next Congress.

But no such deal has been finalized, and not all 20 of the holdouts are necessarily in sync. That was apparent when Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) cast his 7th speaker vote for “Donald John Trump.” The next speaker does not have to be a member of Congress, but no past speaker has come from the outside.

There was a bit of a conflict of competing stories as the House neared its next vote. Cracking the cable news unity that has characterized the coverage since the beginning of the week, Fox News was the only outlet to air live President Biden’s border security remarks this morning. Simultaneously, CNN and MSNBC stuck with nominating speeches for McCarthy from the House floor. 

The speeches reflected a bit of the frustration as the process has dragged out. John James, incoming congressman from Florida, griped that “we are stuck at an impasse and we will stay here” until there was unity on the GOP side. He credited McCarthy with Republicans’ ability to win back the House in the most recent cycle. James said that the party needed to “learn to win” and not “snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC), nominating Donalds, inadvertently drew applause from the Democratic side when he said, “Yesterday we could have elected the first Black speaker of the House of Representatives.” Donalds and Democrats’ nominee, party leader Hakeem Jeffries, are Black.

But Bishop also criticized a member, without naming her, for tweeting out that Donalds was a “prop.” Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) sent the tweet out on Wednesday after Donalds was put forth by Republicans as the McCarthy alternative.

Cheryl Johnson, who as House clerk has been presiding over the proceedings with the absence of new leadership, warned before the vote that members had to “preserve order and decorum in the chamber.” There were some moments on Wednesday when members complained that rules were being violated, including a moment when Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) accused Democrats of drinking alcohol as the roll call votes were carried out.

House Chaplain Margaret Kibben opened Thursday’s proceedings with a prayer that included a reference to the scene of the last few days. “Protect us that in this imbroglio of indecision we do not expose ourselves to incursion of our adversary,” she said.

Dominic Patten contributed to this report.

PREVIOUSLY: News networks again will center their attention on the unfolding drama on Capitol Hill, where Kevin McCarthy and his allies are trying to sway 20 dug-in detractors.

The U.S. House is scheduled to meet at noon ET/9 AM PT, but it is unclear whether members, none of whom have been sworn in to the new Congress, will proceed to a seventh vote for speaker, or whether McCarthy’s side will move to an adjournment, giving even more time for negotiations.

What viewers saw on TV on Wednesday night was one of the most visible holdouts, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), who appeared on Fox News’ Hannity and MSNBC’s The 11th Hour, as host Stephanie Ruhle pressed her on claims that opposition to McCarthy is growing even though no votes changed in the three roll calls on Wednesday. In fact, it got so repetitive that Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL), in nominating McCarthy, said, “It’s groundhog day again.”

But Boebert told Ruhle, “As some of my colleagues said, we could be here until the cherry blossoms bloom.”

She also faced a contentious interview with Sean Hannity, who pressed her, “Who will you only support to be speaker? It’s not that hard.” Boebert replied, “I’m willing to have conversations with the Republican conference to come up with a consensus candidate.” Hannity pointed out multiple times that her side had only 20 votes and McCarthy had 203.

But Boebert, who along with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) left a meeting with McCarthy Wednesday evening insisting that nothing had changed the calculus, may be intractable where other holdouts are not. Punchbowl News and other outlets reported that talks have been ongoing with Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), who has been a key leader in the anti-McCarthy group, and McCarthy has been agreeing to a number of concessions. Among them, according to The Washington Post, is a rule change that would lower the threshold to compel a vote on removing the speaker. Instead of five members sponsoring such a resolution to oust that person, it would be just one. So essentially McCarthy, if he is elected, would be speaker under a lingering threat of being shown the door at any moment.

What has complicated things is the 20 dissidents do not necessarily speak with one voice. Over and over again on the Hill, some of the holdouts have told reporters that this is not a personal crusade against McCarthy, even though figures like Boebert have also turned around and made clear that she will not vote for him.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who as surrogate for McCarthy has, amazingly enough, tried to be a voice of reason against the holdouts, told reporters on Wednesday, “This is the problem with the ‘never’ movement,” she said. “Just like there was ‘never Trump,’ that stopped people from working together, and now we are seeing it here with the ‘never Kevin,’ and Matt Gaetz was very open about that.”

Meanwhile, a group of McCarthy-supporting veterans held a press conference where they talked about the implications of a stalled Congress. That includes the inability of members to get national security briefings because committees have yet to be activated by new House leadership.

Some Democrats, meanwhile, were a bit miffed that two of their members, Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA) and Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) did not make the Wednesday evening vote on a motion to adjourn. Republicans narrowly won that vote, 216-214, after a raucous few moments in which each side scrambled to get members to the clerk’s dais before the voting deadline. The adjournment gave McCarthy more breathing room to negotiate. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) griped on Twitter that McCarthy won the vote because two Democrats “inexplicably didn’t show up to vote,” noting that even Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) was there even though he is going through cancer treatments.

“Frustrating to say the least,” Huffman wrote.

Democrats by and large have been watching the long slog through three roll call votes with some sense of amusement. Some, like former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been spotted reading magazines and books. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said that he’s found the time productive, as he’s been able to talk to new members and to other colleagues about legislative priorities.

“The problem is with them, and so they have to figure it out,” he said.

He added, “McCarthy has given away everything, including his dignity, so I don’t know what is left to give away.”

There is one noticeable change in the atmosphere at the Capitol as the GOP tries to launch a new Congress: Cigar smoke. The smell has been noticeable on the third floor, apparently wafting out of the offices of Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), poised to become the new chairman of the Rules Committee. Across the hall in one of the House press galleries has been installed a an air purifier.

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