WASHINGTON — Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., lost an eighth vote for speaker of the House on Thursday, even after making several concessions to win over far-right opponents who have so far barred him from the election hammer blocked.
Earlier in the day, McCarthy had sounded an upbeat note over talks between his top lieutenants and a block of GOP holdouts.
“I think everyone in the conversation wants to find a solution,” McCarthy said as he made his way into the House of Representatives chamber for the day’s first vote.
But less than two hours after voting began, an influential McCarthy holdout, Rep. Scott Perry, of Pennsylvania, released an angry tweet accusing McCarthy of revealing details of internal negotiations.
Though voting is still ongoing, McCarthy has already lost more than 10 votes, making it impossible for him to reach the 218 needed to win the speakership.
It was unclear what would happen after the eighth vote, whether Republicans would attempt to adjourn the chamber or be forced to hold a ninth vote, although there were no apparent signs that anyone in the GOP faction changed their minds had.
The continued absence of a Speaker has thrown the House into disarray, largely due to the fact that ordinary members cannot be sworn into office until a Speaker is elected and cannot set up their local or Washington offices. This means that all 434 members of the House still technically remain elected members, not official proxies.
Ahead of Thursday’s votes, Democratic Party leaders berated Republicans for the party’s dysfunction and stressed the damage days without a House Speaker would do to the legislature and the nation.
“We cannot organize our district offices, get our new members to do the political work of our constituent services, and minister to the people who sent us here on their behalf,” said new Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass. , reporters at the Capitol Thursday morning. “Kevin McCarthy’s ego in his quest for speaking at any cost drowns out the voices and needs of the American people.”
Democrats also stressed that the lack of a speaker threatens U.S. national security by preventing members of Congress from accessing classified information that is only available to lawmakers after taking the oath of office, which none of them have can do without a speaker.
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“Ultimately, all we’re asking is Republicans to find a way for themselves to organize so Congress can get together and do business with the American people,” said Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. , said at a press conference with Clark.
She accused McCarthy of being “held hostage to his own ambitions”.
“This is about your responsibility to organize the government. It’s fundamental to us as members of Congress,” Clark said.
McCarthy, meanwhile, negotiated late on Wednesday with both allies and his opponents to try and reach an agreement that would land him the hammer after six failed votes on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Republican leader of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reacts on the floor of the House chamber with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) as Democrats force the House of Representatives to vote on whether to hold a late night session to continue against McCarthy’s wishes The contest for Speaker of the House continues on the second day of the 118th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, United States, on January 4, 2023
Jonathan Ernest | Reuters
The first major concession McCarthy agreed to Wednesday was a rule change that would allow any member of the party to vote at any time on whether to replace the Speaker of the House, a far lower threshold than the current bar, according to NBC News .
“Anyone, anywhere, anytime,” Gaetz, one of McCarthy’s staunchest opponents, described the new rule to NBC late Wednesday night.
Gaetz also said McCarthy has agreed to appoint members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus to positions on key committees, including the powerful House Rules Committee, which controls which bills get the floor for voting and which bills languish in committees indefinitely.
This change satisfied another demand from the extreme right that its constituent bloc be given more power to get their favorite bills on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) passionately addresses fellow conservative Republican House members at the center of the House Chamber after a fourth round of voting still failed, US House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), to be elected the new Speaker of the House on the second day of the 118th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, United States, January 4, 2023.
Evelyn Hockstein Reuters
McCarthy’s allies didn’t deny he had agreed to new concessions, NBC reported, but they declined to confirm details.
“The question is movement and positive movement,” Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-NC, told NBC News and other reporters camped outside the meeting rooms late Wednesday night. “We had an afternoon of very positive discussions and there seems to be goodwill among Republicans and McCarthy that’s developing in a very nice way.”
The limited progress came after McCarthy failed to meet the minimum required to become speaker, in this case 218 votes if all 434 incoming members of the House of Representatives were to cast ballots, in seven votes in two days.
Not only had McCarthy failed to reach 218, but over the course of 48 hours, McCarthy’s support had actually shrunk from 203 to 201 after two members of his faction, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds and Indiana Rep. Victoria Spartz , had ceased their support.
Democrats stayed in step throughout all of the voting, casting all 212 of their ballots unanimously for Jeffries each time.
New Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), new Democratic Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA) and new Democratic Faction Chair Pete Aguilar (D-CA) hold a press conference on Capitol Hill on December 13, 2022 in Washington, USA, from.
Elisabeth Franz | Reuters
This is an evolving story and will be updated throughout the day.