McCarthy Fails to Secure Speaker Seat After Three Rounds of Voting

An historic opening day of the 118th Congress.  For the first time since 1923, the House of Representatives failed to elect a Speaker on the first ballot.  And the House adjourned until noon today after three rounds of roll call votes failed to elect a Speaker.

Opening day is traditionally filled with pomp and ceremony.  Families travel to Washington – especially for newly elected Members – to witness the swearing in of the Members of the 118th Congress.  But that didn’t happen.  The first order of business for the House in a new Congress is the election of a Speaker.  Members are not sworn in until after the Speaker election.  After three roll call ballots – each took about 50 minutes – no one had won a majority of the vote.  The Republican nominee for Speaker Kevin McCarthy lost 19 Republicans on the first two ballots and 20 Republicans on the third ballot.  He can only lose four Republicans and win a majority. 

So, the Members had to wait another day (or more) to get sworn in.  A Rules package has not been approved, so committees can’t be formed and populated.  Legislation can’t come to the floor.  If it drags into late next week, staff can’t get paid.  (A Rules package has to pass to authorize paying staff and the next paycheck gets processed late next week). 

Needless to say, this is not how Republican leaders hoped day one of their new majority would unfold.  But now the question is – what happens next?  Things can change quickly – or they don’t.  Kevin McCarthy has made clear he intends to stay in the race.  At the same time, the 20 Members opposing him believe they are in an even stronger position.  A real challenge for McCarthy is that while the 20 are united in opposition to McCarthy, it is not at all clear that they are united in what it would take to change their vote.  There isn’t one ask or demand – yet. 

When the House reconvenes today at noon there is the potential for an immediate motion to adjourn.  Otherwise, the next order of business is another roll call vote for Speaker.  Members are beginning to grow frustrated with voting again and again without resolution.  It is an evolving situation.  Rarely is the repeated reading of names this dramatic – at least for political junkies. 

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