Kevin McCarthy defeated in third round of voting for US House speaker

Embattled Republican leader Kevin McCarthy

Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy was unable to crack the 218 vote threshold he needs to claim the gavel as Speaker of the House of Representatives, even after three attempts.

The new House GOP majority is locked in a chaotic once-in-a-century fight to determine who will serve as the next speaker after McCarthy failed to secure the necessary support to win in three rounds of voting on Tuesday.

The House is now adjourned until noon tomorrow, as Republicans scramble to find a path forward.

A defiant McCarthy has vowed to press ahead, telling reporters, “we stay in until we win,” but his path to the speakership was unclear.

The House itself remained in limbo, with no action until a speaker is elected. 

The GOP standoff — pitting McCarthy and his allies against a small but persistent group of conservative firebrands — led to a bizarre day of commotion and confusion on the House floor, where frustrated Republicans sniped internally, amused Democrats reveled in the GOP’s struggles and lawmakers of both parties were forced to consider multiple speaker ballots for the first time in a century.

“Hunter Thompson was right: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” said Rep. Mike Quigley.

After McCarthy failed to secure the 218 votes he needed on the third ballot, Republican leaders quickly adjourned the chamber, punting the process to Wednesday.

On Twitter, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the former Democratic senior whip who helped lead the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, had one message for Republicans: “What goes round comes round.”

It was not the start to 2023 that Republicans had hoped to see.

Despite underperforming in November’s midterms, Republicans had successfully flipped control of the lower chamber after just four years in the minority wilderness. And they’ve been eager to make good on their campaign promises, from moving legislation to address the volatile economy to launching investigations into a host of Biden administration initiatives.

Instead, the impasse over the Speakership has left the House rudderless and in limbo, putting virtually all lower chamber business on hold — including the process of swearing in members — until the logjam is broken and the replacement for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is seated.

“You can’t finish finalizing your committee chairmen and assignments and staff, so it does hold that up,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). “But getting your leader right — that is more than anything else. You got to get your leader right and then, from there, you can do all your work.”

The internal opposition to McCarthy from the GOP’s right flank was no surprise: A small but determined group of conservatives had forecast for weeks that they would vote against his Speakership bid. And given the Republicans’ slim majority — they control 222 seats, to the Democrats’ 212 — McCarthy can afford to lose only four GOP votes.

But the number of McCarthy detractors appeared to grow even higher in recent days, despite certain concessions to his critics. And the number of Republicans who opposed him on the floor — 19 in each of the first two ballots, and 20 in the third — was greater than even McCarthy’s sharpest critics had predicted.

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