WASHINGTON—Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) lost an 11th straight vote late Thursday in his bid to become the new speaker of the House of Representatives, but his team’s intensive back-room bargaining appeared to be closing in on a deal with many of the populist conservatives who are demanding new leadership in Congress.
As occurred in the 10 previous counts, beginning on Jan. 3, Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York received the votes of all 212 members of his party.
Also in the 11th ballot, McCarthy received 200 Republican votes, while Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida got 12 and Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) had seven. Former President Donald Trump was chosen by one, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). To become speaker of the House, the winner must receive 218 votes or a majority of the members voting.
Shortly after the counting of the 11th ballot was completed, the House adjourned until noon on Friday. The adjournment vote was a straight party win for the Republicans, 219–213, with one GOPer joining the Democrats and two not voting.
The issue then for McCarthy and the Republican majority elected by voters in the November 2022 midterm election when the House reconvenes will be whether enough of the 20 populist conservative dissidents who have opposed the California Republican on every vote will have signed off on the agreement negotiated behind closed doors in talks that began unofficially Tuesday evening, but then got serious late in the day Wednesday.
At a minimum, McCarthy needs 13 of the dissidents to support him if he is to defeat Jeffries, assuming all 212 Democrats again vote for him as expected.
The negotiations became intense during the seventh ballot on Wednesday as Donalds was seen leaving the chamber with Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who is expected to be McCarthy’s majority whip. Emmer has led the talks for McCarthy with Donalds, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), House Freedom Caucus (HFC) Chairman Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz), and others among the dissidents.
The talks continued throughout Thursday, seeming at one moment to be nearing success, only to then be dashed as one or more of the dissidents refused to change their votes. But late in the day as the 11th ballot roll call was being taken, a written version of the deal was circulated and got enough support to give McCarthy confidence about Friday.
A dozen of the holdouts, led by Roy, have been seeking concessions that would open the House up to more amendments from the floor, increased power for committee chairmen, and assured seats on key committees for members of the HFC.
The HFC began lobbying McCarthy last summer for such changes and, even as a majority of its 42 members are backing McCarthy, the group has been at the heart of the dissident revolt.
While the seventh round of voting was underway, HFC chair Perry told Fox News, when challenged to say who could become speaker by collecting 218 votes, that “if Kevin McCarthy agrees to these changes, it will be him.”
But Perry also reiterated that he and the other holdouts won’t end their opposition to McCarthy as long as they doubt the Californian will abide by the concessions he’s been making in recent days.
Hopes for a deal before the chamber reconvened on Jan. 5 were boosted when McCarthy left the negotiating area late in the evening and a related agreement was reached between the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a political action committee (PAC) aligned with McCarthy; and the Club for Growth (CFG).
Earlier in the day, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told NTD that “most of my colleagues are very frustrated like I am. But this is important. People say, ‘Oh, this is an emergency.’ No, the emergency is at the southern border. That’s where the emergency is.”
McCaul, who is expected to be chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee once a speaker is selected and the Republican majority officially takes over, expressed confidence.
“We’re going to get to 218. And again, I’m confident this will be a learning experience and, hopefully, when we face the next tough decision to get to 218, we can do it in a timely manner.”
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the exiting chair of the House Appropriations Committee, told NTD that the continuing stalemate among Republicans in choosing a new speaker reflects poorly on their ability to govern the country.
“I keep thinking about in December, Dec. 23, in a divided government, with us with a two-vote majority on the Democratic side, and a very slim majority in the Senate, [yet] we were able to pass a bipartisan bicameral budget bill [of] $1.7 trillion, that has benefits to all of the services in the country, including community projects.”
DeLauro said her party was able to do that because “you have to govern in order to have government work on behalf of the American people. And that’s what’s being held up, all that ignores to the American people in what we do here, which affects every part of their lives.”
Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), responding to criticisms of dissident leaders such as Roy, told NTD that while she supports McCarthy, she agrees with the reforms being sought.
“I agree with Chip wholeheartedly. In fact, Chip and I had this conversation on the House floor yesterday, I came here because this process is broken, and we have to fix it. But we are going to see people who are going to put their personal agendas, their personal vendettas, again, above the needs of the country. And that’s not productive.”
Cammack added that “things like having time to read the bills, single-issue bills, getting a vote on the floor for a balanced budget amendment, term-limit votes, these are things that we should all want. And that’s what I’m supportive of.”
“I think Chip has been 100 percent operating in good faith, and I support him.”