WASHINGTON — House Republicans rejected Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the speakership for the 14th time on Friday night.
After a series of concessions, McCarthy peeled off several defectors from the small group of right-wing Republicans who have refused to go along with the rest of the party in supporting him for the leadership post.
After the 13th vote, the House adjourned until 10 p.m. Friday for the 14th vote. McCarthy believed that he would prevail. “I’ll have the votes,” he told CNN shortly after Congress adjourned.
But for now, the chamber will remain leaderless and unable to function.
During the vote, holdout Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.) switched their no votes to “present.” Gaetz declined to vote during the first roll call, engineering a situation in which he would be called upon last for a final, decisive vote ― and one that he needed to cast affirmatively for McCarthy in order to finally end the drama. After being intensely lobbied by several top Republicans, Gaetz voted present, throwing the House into chaos. Rep. Mike Rogers (Ala.) appeared to shout at Gaetz during a heated interaction.
It’s not immediately clear if there will be a 15th vote on Friday. If so, the House will immediately proceed to a vote on rule changes that would include empowering individual lawmakers to call for a vote of no confidence in the speaker, making McCarthy’s life difficult if he ultimately wins the job. Other changes would give lawmakers more time to review legislation and make it easier to offer amendments.
Voting could stretch well into the early morning hours.
This is an abrupt shift after a day in which McCarthy’s diehard opponents insisted that he would continue to fail.
“Mr. McCarthy is not going to be elected speaker of the House of Representatives today,” Rosendale said on his way to the House chamber Friday morning.
McCarthy has tried to win over his haters with a package of parliamentary changes and preferential committee seating. Several of the members who changed their votes pointed to the new rules in brief statements as they announced their votes.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), one of many former auto dealers in the House, likened the Freedom Caucus holdouts to finicky car customers.
“Oftentimes you trying to sell somebody something and you get to their price and you say, ‘Okay, fine, we’ll get it ready for you.’ And they say, ‘Well, that was fine, but I want something else,’” Kelly said.
McCarthy and his allies seem to have boosted the pressure on the holdouts. When Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) delivered a speech nominating Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for speaker, dozens of Republicans stood up and walked out of the chamber.
The Freedom Caucus wants to create maximum gridlock in Congress this year. Specifically, they want to prevent votes on legislation that funds the government or allows the Treasury to sell bonds to pay for basic government services ― unless they can extract major spending concessions from Democrats in return.
“The only way you’re going to get a balanced budget is to make cuts,” Norman said before the vote.
Asked if Social Security cuts should be up for cuts, Norman said, “Everything is in that pot.”
Throughout the week, McCarthy’s backers have tried to downplay what a colossal disaster it’s been for him, his party and for organizing the House at all. The House can’t conduct any business until it elects a speaker, including creating committees or even approving rules that lay out what people can wear on the House floor.
“Sure, it looks messy,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said Wednesday as he stood up to nominate McCarthy for speaker for the fourth time. “Democracy is messy.”
By Thursday, as McCarthy headed into his tenth round of being rejected for speaker, Luna stood up to nominate him again. With a stern tone, she said she needed “to clarify” something for Democrats.
“What you’re seeing with this discussion does not mean that we are dysfunctional,” she said.
On Friday, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) invoked Luna’s dysfunction comment when she delivered a speech nominating Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) for the Democrats.
“They have had months to figure this out, and Americans should have profound concerns about what this portends,” Escobar said. She went on to remind the chamber that Friday was the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, mob attack on the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
“I shudder to think what a Republican majority’s inability to govern would have meant on that day, and what it could mean in the future for those of us who believe in defending our democracy abroad and now more than ever, here at home,” she said.