By LISA MASCARO, FARNOUSH AMIRI and KEVIN FREKING
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans went through a second day of multiple ballots Wednesday, unable to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House or devise a new strategy to end the political chaos that has marred the beginning of his new majority.
For the fifth time, Republicans tried to vote McCarthy for the top job as the House descended further into chaos. That came moments after the fourth ballot showed 20 reluctant Tories still refusing to support him, unchanged from the previous time and leaving him well short of the 218 votes normally needed to win the deck.
“Cooler, more rational heads prevail,” said Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, a conservative aligned with the far-right Freedom Caucus who nonetheless nominated McCarthy.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, a staunch conservative from Colorado, nominated Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., the protest candidate of the day pick, and asked former President Donald Trump, the hero of conservatives, to tell McCarthy: “Mr. You don’t have the votes and it’s time to retire.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Trump had done the opposite, urging Republicans to vote for McCarthy. “Seal the deal, get the win,” he wrote on his social media site, using all capital letters. “Don’t turn a great win into a great and embarrassing loss.”
However, the California Republican vowed to keep fighting despite losing multiple rounds of voting that caused an uproar from the new majority a day earlier. Lively private discussions broke out on the chamber floor between McCarthy supporters and opponents seeking an end.
The House relented at noon, but no other work could be done — swearing in new members, forming committees, tackling legislation, investigating the Biden administration — until the president was elected.
“Sure, it seems complicated,” said Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisconsin, a McCarthy ally who quickly renominated him for the job with a rousing speech designed to unleash critics. But democracy is messy, he said. “The American people are in charge.”
McCarthy himself entered the chamber saying, “We’ll have another vote.”
But the dynamic was no different from day one, as Democrats renewed their leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, as speaker, and a right-wing Freedom Caucus leader challenged McCarthy twice: nominating Donalds in another historic moment. . Both Jeffries and Donalds are black.
“This country needs leadership,” said Rep. Chip Roy, the Texas Republican who noted it was the first time in history that two black Americans had been nominated for the high office, and lawmakers from both parties rose to applaud.
It was the first time in 100 years that a House speaker candidate had been unable to take the gavel on the first ballot, but McCarthy seemed unfazed. Instead, he vowed to fight to the end.
The disorganized start to the new Congress signaled difficulties ahead with the Republicans who now control the House.
President Joe Biden, leaving the White House for a bipartisan event in Kentucky with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, said “the rest of the world is watching” the scene on the House floor.
“I think it’s really embarrassing that it’s taking so long,” Biden said. “I have no idea” who will prevail.
Tensions flared among the new House majority when his campaign promises stalled. Since 1923, the choice of a speaker has not gone through multiple ballots, and the longest and most grueling fight for the gavel began in late 1855 and lasted for two months, with 133 ballots, during the slavery debates in the period prior to the Civil War. .
A new generation of conservative Republicans, many aligned with Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, want to change business as usual in Washington and have vowed to stop McCarthy’s rise without compromising his priorities.
“Kevin McCarthy is not going to be a speaker,” said Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., one of the resisters.
As the voting spectacle dragged on, McCarthy supporters implored the holdouts to side with the California Republican.
“We all came here to get things done,” second-ranking Republican Rep. Steve Scalise said in a speech Tuesday nominating McCarthy for the vote and urging his colleagues to drop their protest.
Criticizing Democratic President Joe Biden’s agenda, Scalise, himself a potential GOP compromise option, said: “We can’t start fixing those problems until we pick Kevin McCarthy as our next speaker.”
The standoff over McCarthy has been building since Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections. While the Senate remains in Democratic hands, House Republicans are eager to take on Biden after two years of Democrats controlling both houses of Congress. The conservative Freedom Caucus led the opposition to McCarthy, believing that he is neither conservative enough nor tough enough to fight the Democrats.
To win support, McCarthy has already conceded to many of the demands of the Freedom Caucus, which has been calling for rule changes and other concessions that give rank-and-file members more influence in the legislative process. He has been here before, as she withdrew from the speaking race in 2015 when he failed to win over the Tories.
“Everything is on the table,” said Allied Rep. Patrick McHenry, RN.C. – Except, he said, that McCarthy would step aside. “You’re welcome. That’s not on the table.”
Democrats enthusiastically nominated Jeffries, who will take over as party leader, as their pick for speaker. He got the most votes overall, 212.
If McCarthy could win 213 votes and then persuade the remaining detractors to simply vote present, he could lower the rule-required threshold for a majority.
It’s a strategy that former House speakers, including outgoing Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Speaker John Boehner, used when they faced the opposition and won the deck with fewer than 218 votes.
One Republican, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, voted present for the fourth-round vote, but made little difference to the immediate outcome.