Metro Weekly

U.S. House Adjourns Without Choosing Speaker

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy falls short -- three separate times -- of the 218-vote threshold for the speakership.

Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives during the third vote for Speaker. – Photo: C-SPAN.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to adjourn on Tuesday evening without electing a speaker, despite holding three separate votes to do so — marking the first time in 100 years that a party leader has been denied the chance to ascend to third in line for the presidency.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was blocked by a cadre of Republicans who took issue with McCarthy’s coziness with the status quo and their belief that he’d be more willing — at least compared to more conservative members of the caucus — to negotiate with Democratic President Joe Biden and a U.S. Senate controlled by Democrats. 

Despite attempts by McCarthy allies Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Steve Scalise (R-La.), McCarthy was unable to gain the votes of 19 Republicans on the first two votes, leaving him about 15 votes short of the 218-vote threshold needed to assume the role he desires. On a third vote, he lost the support of an additional member, U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), who urged McCarthy to end his bid for the speakership.

“The reality is Rep. Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have the votes,” Donalds wrote in a tweet thread. “I committed my support to him publicly and for two votes on the House Floor. 218 is the number, and currently, no one is there.

“Our conference needs to recess and huddle and find someone or work out the next steps, but these continuous votes aren’t working for anyone. When the dust settles, we will have a Republican Speaker, now is the time for our conference to debate and come to a consensus,” he added. 

“This will take time, Democracy is messy at times, but we will be ready to govern on behalf of the American people. Debate is healthy.”

McCarthy ultimately ended the day getting 202 votes on the third ballot, well below the 218-vote threshold, but also behind Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the Democratic nominee for speaker. The 20 dissenting votes went to Jordan, who is viewed as more ideologically “pure” and more combative when it comes to dealing with Democrats.

A fourth vote is expected to be held when Congress resumes on Wednesday, Jan. 4, at noon. It is yet unclear how Republicans will move forward, whether that is by nominating a “consensus” candidate from within their caucus, or by partnering with Democrats to name a more moderate speaker. Behind-the-scenes negotiations are expected to continue over the course of the next day.

While McCarthy was not expected to be a speaker who was friendly to the LGBTQ community, as he’s voted against most LGBTQ bills that have come before Congress during his 16 years in Congress, the uncertainty surrounding the identity of the next speaker likely has many LGBTQ advocates waiting with bated breath.

For example, a non-McCarthy Republican who supported by a majority of Republican caucus could be equally as hostile to some of the community’s priorities, such as a bill to allow married same-sex couples to recoup tax refunds they lost out on due to state same-sex marriage bans, or a bill to clarify that laws providing for “religious freedom” can’t be used as an excuse to allow anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

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