WASHINGTON — Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., failed to secure enough support to be elected speaker of the U.S. House in three straight votes Tuesday, throwing the Republican party into chaos and the House of Representatives forever yet left without a speaker to swear in members of the 118th Congress.
On each of the three ballots, every Democrat on the floor unanimously rallied around new Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. But a sect of conservative Republicans split from their party to support other candidates, including longtime McCarthy ally Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
In an unexpected twist, McCarthy actually lost support as voting resumed when in the third round Florida Republican Byron Daniels announced his support for Jordan after voting for McCarthy twice.
As a result of Daniels’ defection, McCarthy won 202 of the 218 votes needed to secure the post in the third round, down one vote from the first two ballots.
Jordan, who nominated and voted for McCarthy, won 20 votes in the third round. Jeffries, the new leader of the Democratic minority, won 212 votes on each of the three ballots.
U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reacts as lawmakers address the first day of the 118th Congress in the U.S. Capitol Building’s Chamber of Representatives March 3.
Win Mcnamee | News from Getty Images | Getty Images
McCarthy’s failure to garner public support from his entire faction has already cast a shadow over the new Republican majority and exposed decades of divisions within the party. The differences were deepened by former President Donald Trump emboldening a small group of ultraconservatives.
Trump eventually backed McCarthy’s bid for speaker, as did other influential Conservatives like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. But the ex-president’s influence within the GOP faction did not prevent McCarthy’s initial defeat on Tuesday.
Conservative Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who received 10 votes in the first round, tweeted that the record shows Republicans “made it clear that our party deserves a new leader.”
“McCarthy should resign and allow us to choose someone else on the next vote,” he wrote.
The mood in the house on Tuesday started out cheerful and energetic, due in part to the presence of members’ children and family members, many of whom came to witness what they were swearing in ceremonies. But as the day went on it got more and more exciting.
Until a Speaker is elected, the remaining elected members of the Chamber cannot be sworn in, as their oath of office is taken by the Speaker.
House Republicans began Tuesday morning with a caucus meeting seen as a final opportunity for McCarthy to deliver his pitch in front of members who may be on the fence.
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After the meeting but before the vote, McCarthy told reporters that “we might have a fight on the ground, but the fight is for the conference and the country, and I’m fine with that.”
“Look, I have the record for longest speech ever on the floor, I have no problem getting a record for most votes for the speaker as well,” he added.
Judging by early statements from key Republican holdouts, conservatives had a long list of demands that they felt McCarthy failed to meet.
House Democrats, meanwhile, openly savored the internal chaos that was throwing the opposing party into turmoil.
“We’re certainly seeing chaos in Congress today, and this is an extension of the extremism we’ve seen from the GOP,” new House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
She accused McCarthy of “thrown away his moral compass”.
This is an evolving story, please keep checking back for updates.