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Kevin McCarthy loses fourth vote for House speaker



Kevin McCarthy
US House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) gets a pat on the back from one of his House colleagues prior to a fourth round of voting for a new House Speaker on the second day of the 118th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, US, January 4, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Kevin McCarthy has lost another vote for House speaker on Wednesday, extending the process to at least a fifth ballot and extending the embarrassment for Republicans.

McCarthy lost three votes on Tuesday, marking the first time the selection of a House speaker needed more than one ballot in a century. After 19 Republican defections on the first two votes, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida switched his vote against McCarthy on the third ballot. On Wednesday, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, nominated Donalds as speaker as the alternative to McCarthy.

“There’s an important reason for nominating Byron and that is this country needs leadership that does not represent this city, this town, that is badly broken,” Roy said. When Donalds voted for himself on Wednesday, there were some cheers in the chamber.

Anti-McCarthy Republicans had voted for a number of alternatives on the first ballot before settling on Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has continued to support McCarthy. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., gave a speech nominating McCarthy to start the proceedings Wednesday, urging Republicans to rally around the former minority leader and noting that Democrats were enjoying the chaos within his caucus.


20 Republicans voted against McCarthy on the fourth ballot, and one, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, switched her vote from McCarthy to “present.” The lack of movement toward McCarthy came despite an affirmation of support from former President Donald Trump.

McCarthy, who had served as the minority leader, attempted to woo his GOP critics by endorsing rule changes, including making it easier for a smaller group of members to challenge leadership in a procedure known as vacating the chair. The California Republican, who had lost a bid for speaker in 2015, urged the party to support him in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, saying, “I earned this job.” He and his allies have vowed to continue with as many votes as it takes, but it’s possible he will be forced to withdraw or a consensus candidate will emerge.

The last time the selection of a House speaker took more than one ballot was 1923, when nine ballots were required for Frederick Gillett to take the gavel. It took the 34th Congress, convened in 1855, 133 ballots and two months to settle on Nathaniel Prentice Banks.

Democrats were united behind New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who succeeded former Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the party’s House leader last month after she stepped down. Pelosi, still in office as a rank-and-file member, was cheered Tuesday when she voted for Jeffries on the first ballot.

Hakeem Jeffries US Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks to reporters after a Democratic Caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, US

Incoming Democratic Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries

“This is their problem,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday. “Their lack of respect for this institution. Their lack of respect for the responsibility that we all have to respect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Get the job done for the American people.” Asked how she would describe this moment, she added, “This is very sad.”

Speaking at the White House Wednesday morning, President Biden called the chaos among Republicans “embarrassing” and “not a good look,” adding, “I hope they get their act together” and noting that his focus was on “getting things done.”

“That’s not my problem,” Biden said. “I just think it’s really embarrassing it’s taking so long.”

On Tuesday, the Senate selected Democrat Patty Murray of Washington as the first female president pro tem in the chamber’s history, replacing retiring Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. The chain of succession for president is vice president, then House speaker, then president pro tem, which led Murray to joke on her place in line, “Well, today I’m second, because Kevin McCarthy’s not speaker.”

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