Rep. Kevin McCarthy made history Tuesday, but not in the way he had hoped.
The California Republican became the first nominee in 100 years to fail to garner enough votes to become House speaker on the first attempt.
A few hours later, McCarthy repeated the feat in a second round, again losing due to the stance taken by 19 conservative hard-liners. Still later in the day, he lost a third round and yet another GOP supporter.
During the second vote, the division among members of the new majority party made itself evident when Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida nominated Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan for speaker.
Jordan himself urged his peers to unite under McCarthy, NPR reported.
“The differences we may have … pale in comparison to us and the left, which now unfortunately controls the other party,” Jordan said. “So, we had better come together. … That’s what the people want us to do, and I think Kevin McCarthy is the right guy to lead us.”
Although he knew going into the session that he faced a small but ardent opposing faction, McCarthy started the day by proclaiming that the position should be his.
“I earned this job,” McCarthy said, according to the New York Post. “We earned this majority, and God d*** it, we are going to win it today.”
The rebel holdouts were Arizona’s Andy Biggs, Eli Crane and Paul Gosar, Gaetz, North Carolina’s Dan Bishop, Colorado’s Lauren Boebert, Oklahoma’s Josh Brecheen, Georgia’s Andrew Clyde, Virginia’s Bob Good, Maryland’s Andy Harris, Florida’s Anna Luna, Illinois’ Mary Miller, South Carolina’s Ralph Norman, Tennessee’s Andy Ogles, Pennsylvania’s Scott Perry, Montana’s Matthew Rosendale and three Texans: Michael Cloud, Chip Roy and Keith Self, The Washington Post reported.
The vote breakdown was similar in the third round, but McCarthy lost an additional Republican, Rep. Byron Daniels of Florida, who voted for Jordan.
“Those voting against McCarthy are almost exclusively members and incoming members of the House Freedom Caucus, and they include five freshmen,” the Post reported.
Voting was expected to go to a fourth round.
The last time the House failed to elect a speaker in the first round was in 1923. Frederick Huntington Gillett won in the ninth round of voting.
In 1856, it took two months and a record 133 votes — in a Congress sharply divided by the slavery issue — to finally elect Massachusetts Rep. Nathaniel Prentice Banks.
In nominating Biggs as an alternative to McCarthy in the first round, Gosar explained that he and his dissenting colleagues were hoping to break away from politics as usual.
“America knows that Washington is broken,” he said. “A wise person once told me, ‘Good process builds good policy builds good politics.’ We’ve got to return to that.”
With a slim but real majority making it possible to advance conservative causes in Congress, it seems like a no-brainer for McCarthy to try to work with those who oppose him becoming speaker.
But the New York Post quoted anonymous sources as saying McCarthy is not interested in negotiating with the dissenting Republicans.
However, McCarthy has indicated he is willing to do what it takes — up to and including breaking that 1856 record — to win the House speakership.
“I have the record for the longest speech ever on the floor. I don’t have a problem getting a record for the most votes for speaker, too,” McCarthy said, according to Axios.
He vowed not to step down or yield to any other candidates.
If McCarthy would just show the same dogged determination in pushing through conservative legislation, rather than constantly yielding and compromising with the left, we might see some actual progress in the 118th Congress.
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