McCarthy will try again for a speaker after 6 failed votes

McCarthy is under mounting pressure from restless Republicans to find the votes he needs or step aside so the House can begin its work.

WASHINGTON — Pressure was mounting as the House opened Thursday for a third day with the keynote speaker’s chair empty as Republican leader Kevin McCarthy repeatedly failed to get enough votes from his party to become Speaker of the House.

McCarthy emerged from a morning meeting with colleagues in the Capitol determined to persuade Republican holdouts to end the stalemate that has shattered his new GOP majority.

But despite endless talks, signs of concessions and a public spectacle unparalleled in recent political memory, the way forward remained highly uncertain. The day began like the other two when Republican allies named him speaker.

But dissidents again suggested the name of Florida Republican Byron Donalds, assuring that the standoff would continue.

Michigan Republican John James put McCarthy’s name to the vote with a nod to the story.

“My family has not been a slave of the United States House of Representatives for five generations,” said James, a newly elected would-be lawmaker who is black.

He said while House Republicans are “stuck” at the moment, McCarthy, who failed to find a majority to become Speaker, will ultimately win. “We won’t be able to fight until we find a way to come together,” he said.

Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California has reappointed Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

What began as a political first, the first time in 100 years that a candidate did not win the gavel on the first ballot, has turned into a bitter Republican Party feud and a potential deepening of the crisis.

McCarthy is under mounting pressure from restless Republicans and Democrats to find the votes he needs or to step aside so the House can fully open up and resume government business. His detractors on the right flank seem intent on waiting him out while it lasts.

“We have good discussions and I think everyone wants to find a solution,” McCarthy told reporters just before the House of Representatives was ready to go back into session.

House chaplain Margaret Kibben opened the day’s session, perhaps the last of the week, calling on bigger powers to “calm the storms of disagreement”.

The House of Representatives, which constitutes one half of Congress, is essentially at a standstill as McCarthy failed, vote after vote, to win the orator’s gavel in a grueling spectacle for the whole world to see. The votes have yielded almost the same result, 20 conservative holdouts still refuse to back him, leaving him well short of the 218 normally needed to win the hammer.

In fact, McCarthy saw his support slip to 201 when a fellow Republican switched to “simply presence.”

“I think people need to work a little bit more,” McCarthy said Wednesday as they prepared to adjourn for the night. “I don’t think a vote tonight would make a difference. But a vote in the future might.”

With the home resuming Thursday midday, it could be a long day. The new Republican majority was not expected to meet on Friday, the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. A prolonged and divisive debate would almost certainly underscore the fragility of American democracy after the attempted insurgency two years ago.

“All who serve in the House of Representatives share a responsibility to bring dignity to this body,” former spokeswoman for California Democrat Nancy Pelosi said in a tweet.

Pelosi also said the Republicans’ “cautious attitude in picking a speaker is frivolous, disrespectful and unworthy of this institution. We must open the house and continue with the work of the people.”

Some Republicans seem increasingly dissatisfied with the way House Republicans have taken command after the midterm elections, only to see the House weigh in on the Speaker’s race in its first few days in the new majority was turned upside down.

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

McCarthy has vowed to fight to the end for the speaker’s job in a battle that had roiled the new majority in the early days of the new Congress.

Right-flank Conservatives, led by the Freedom Caucus and allied with former President Donald Trump, appeared emboldened by the standoff — although Trump publicly backed McCarthy,

“This is indeed an invigorating day for America,” he said Florida’s Republican Donalds, who was nominated as an alternative three times by his conservative peers. “There are many members in the Chamber who want to have serious discussions about how we can wrap this all up and elect a speaker.”

The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to difficulties with Republicans, who now control the House, much like some previous Republican speakers, including John Boehner, have had trouble leading a rebellious right flank. The result: government closures, standoffs and Boehner’s early retirement.

A new generation of conservative Republicans, many of whom support Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, are looking to turn business as usual on its head in Washington and have pledged to halt McCarthy’s rise without compromising on their priorities.

But even Trump’s strongest supporters were divided on this issue. Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert, who nominated Donalds for the second time, urged the former president to tell McCarthy, ‘Sir, you don’t have the votes and it’s time to retire.'”

By McCarthy’s own calculations, he’ll have to turn over a dozen or so Republicans who have previously refused their support while he pushes for the job he’s long wanted.

To garner support, McCarthy has already agreed to many of the demands of Freedom Caucus members for rule changes and other concessions that give rank and file members more leverage.

More often than not, the holdouts led by the Freedom Caucus are looking for ways to reduce the powers of the speaker’s office and give ordinary legislators more leverage in the legislative process — with seats on key committees and the ability to draft and amend bills a more free-for-all -Process. McCarthy acknowledged some changes in a rules pack released over New Year’s weekend, but some didn’t go far enough.

Those who oppose McCarthy don’t all have the same grievances, and he may never be able to win over some of them. A small core group of Republicans appears unwilling to ever vote for McCarthy.

“I’m willing to vote for this person all night, all week, all month and never,” said Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.

This staunch opposition was reminiscent of McCarthy’s previous bid for the job, when he dropped out of the running for the speaker in 2015 because he failed to convince Conservatives.

“We don’t have an exit strategy,” said South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman.

“There’s nothing he can give me or any of our members that could be a magic pill,” Norman said.

Since 1923 the election of a speaker had not been carried out in several ballots. The longest battle for the gavel began in late 1855 and dragged on for over two months, with 133 ballots cast during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.

Democrats nominated and renominated their House Speaker Jeffries for speaker in all six ballots in the first two days. Overall, he repeatedly won the most votes with 212.

If McCarthy could win 213 votes and then convince the remaining naysayers to simply vote present, he would be able to lower the majority threshold required by the rules.

One Republican, Victoria Spartz of Indiana, voted for attendance in Wednesday’s ballot, but in the end it only lowered McCarthy’s total. McCarthy will try again for a speaker after 6 failed votes

Laura Coffey

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