Metro Weekly

Kevin McCarthy Loses Vote for Speaker of the House — Again

Right-wing Republicans want to be able to depose any speaker who compromises with Democratic leaders in Washington.

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy – Photo: Office of the House Republican Leader.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy was denied for a fourth time in his bid for the speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, with 20 Republicans voting against the California congressman. 

The fourth vote comes after three failed votes on Tuesday that saw 19 Republicans, and then 20, buck their party’s leadership by choosing someone other than McCarthy. 

Prior to the fourth vote, dissenting Republican Congressman Chip Roy (Texas) nominated Congressman Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) for the speakership. Donalds’ nomination, together with Democrats’ preferred speaker, U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), marked the first time that two Black men had been nominated for the third-highest-ranking position in U.S. government. 

Much of the opposition to McCarthy appeared rooted in his coziness with establishment figures in Washington, and fear that McCarthy, at some time in the future, might be all too willing to cut deals with Democratic President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), allowing large spending bills or compromise legislation to move forward.

Right-wing Republicans, who wish to see no such compromise, also consistently demanded, prior to Tuesday’s first round of voting on allowing a “motion to vacate,” which would allow rank-and-file members to depose a speaker who strays too far from the party’s agenda or cuts deals with Democrats.

McCarthy and his allies within the party had reportedly offered to allow for such a provision, which would have allowed any five members of the House to bring forth a motion to vacate. But dissident Republicans wanted to see that number of members who could call for a motion to vacate — automatically triggering a vote for a new speaker — reduced to one.

Congressional Democrats have gleefully watched the proceedings with a certain feeling of schadenfreude, with many live-tweeting the votes for speaker and pointing to the inability to name a speaker as an example of Republican dysfunction.

Following adjournment of Tuesday’s session, Jeffries, speaking for his caucus in a brief press conference, rejected the notion that some members of his caucus might vote “present” or remove themselves from the chamber in order to lower the majority threshold (currently at 218 votes) needed to allow McCarthy to assume the speakership.

“We’re looking for a willing partner to solve problems for the American people, not save the Republicans from their dysfunction,” Jeffries said.

On Wednesday, on the fourth ballot, it was Jeffries who came in first in the vote tallies, with 212 votes to McCarthy’s 201 votes and 20 for Donalds. Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (Ind.), who previously supported McCarthy, voted “present” in the hope of reducing the number needed for a majority.

The House later held a fifth vote, with the same results, and no nominee for the speakership reaching the 217-vote threshold (which was reduced due to Spartz’s “present” vote). A sixth vote, later in the day, yielded identical results. 

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include the results of the fifth and sixth rounds of balloting. 

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