As Republican Kevin McCarthy was twisting in the wind after the first round of voting rejected his effort to become Speaker of the House, the spectacle of a tete-a-tete between two members of very different views captured the improvisation and chaos that marked the dawn of the 118th Congress.
Republicans gained control of the House in November’s elections, giving them the chance to pick the speaker, a job McCarthy has coveted. However, on three votes Tuesday, conservatives and dissidents denied McCarthy the majority he needs, according to NBC.
After the first vote, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a member of the far-right wing of the GOP, huddled briefly with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, known as a firebrand of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
What happened here? Can anyone read lips? pic.twitter.com/r7PR3Srcyg
— MeidasTouch (@MeidasTouch) January 3, 2023
Ocasio-Cortez said the exchange was about rumors Gaetz said came from McCarthy that Democrats would break ranks and support McCarthy, according to the Intercept.
“McCarthy was suggesting he could get Dems to walk away to lower his threshold,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I fact-checked and said absolutely not.”
Ocasio-Cortez offered a similar comment to National Review that “apparently Kevin McCarthy was making a claim that there’s a possibility that some Democrats could” use a parliamentary maneuver “in order to lower the threshold” of votes McCarthy would need to win.
Ocasio-Cortez said, “Some of the Republicans who are holding out were wondering if that was true. And I said, ‘Absolutely not. I was not going to walk away.’”
By the time the day ended, McCarthy had lost three votes, according to NBC.
Although McCarthy was the choice of a majority of Republicans, all 212 Democrats voted for Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York to be their choice for speaker, meaning McCarthy needed to lose no more than four Republican members to hit the 218-vote number needed for election.
In the first vote of the day, McCarthy had 19 GOP members opposing him. In the final vote of the day, 20 Republicans opposed him.
The impasse is not unprecedented, but in recent years, it has become a formality. It was back in 1923 when House Speaker Frederick Gillett, a Massachusetts Republican, required more than one round of voting to be elected.
The day ended with uncertainty as McCarthy and his opponents were each publicly vowing to hold their ground.
Republican Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida is among those backing Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio for the post. Jordan has so far publicly supported McCarthy.
“Kevin doesn’t have the votes,” he said.
Lauren Boebert suggests that they will push for Jim Jordan to become the Speaker of the House despite him not wanting the job:
“If we have the numbers, then sorry Jim Jordan, we are going to make you do what’s right for the country.” pic.twitter.com/OR6iCzz4G0
— The Republican Accountability Project (@AccountableGOP) January 3, 2023
“This is not a surprise. We knew, you know, that Kevin was short. My concern has been like, look, it’s been two months. Bro, you got to close the deal. You had two months. And so at this point now, if you can’t close it, we got to find who can,” he said.
— Cliff Levy (@cliffordlevy) January 3, 2023
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