The House is set to go to a third ballot after the first ballot awarded Hakeem Jeffries with 212 votes, Kevin McCarthy only 203 votes, Andy Biggs got 10 votes and nine votes went to other candidates, including Jim Jordan.
The House failed to elect a speaker on a second round of balloting, in a humiliating defeat for McCarthy. He is the first Speaker-nominee to not win on the first vote in a century.
McCarthy lost the first two votes for Speaker of the House because he is facing stiff opposition from a small group of hard-right conservative Republican critics. McCarthy lost 19 Republicans on the first and second ballots.
A conservative lawmaker who is supporting McCarthy told CNN that members are hearing from Republican donors and constituents who think the GOP “looks stupid” for not being able to elect a speaker.
McCarthy needs 218 votes, but 19 Republicans voted for other candidates, and the House is unable to begin the new Congress or swear in new members until a speaker is elected.
Another Republican who is backing McCarthy predicted there will be pressure after three or four rounds of votes to either adjourn or start thinking about another strategy.
A person close to McCarthy says the plan is to keep voting, in a strategy intended to wear out the defectors.
But many of the defectors have a history of thriving on their opposition to legislation and leadership and rarely get worn down. so no matter how determined McCarthy is to win the gavel, he’s in a game of chicken that could last interminably.
“Sixteen of the 19 will be there until the cows come home,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, a supporter of McCarthy. “I think it ends when someone grows weary … I think this costs us prestige. There’s an old saying that the whole world is watching. The whole world is watching. I’d like to see us fight like hell internally to make this work.”
“I think somebody’s going to have to say, this is starting to look bad,’” Sessions continued, adding that he didn’t have any other names of a consensus candidate. “I’m not there yet.”
No members voted “present” or were absent, which would have lowered the threshold that McCarthy must meet to get majority support.
“I have the record for the longest speech ever on the floor. I don’t have a problem getting a record for most votes for Speaker, too,” McCarthy told reporters after he failed to secure the necessary number in the voting.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday said that President Biden will not “insert himself” in the Speakership elections as the House is moving onto an unprecedented third vote with no end in sight.
“We’re certainly not going to insert ourselves in what’s happening on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Jean-Pierre told reporters when pressed on the situation in the House.
The chaos in the House comes a day before Biden will travel to Kentucky to tout infrastructure investments alongside Senator Mitch McConnell, who Senate Republicans voted to elect as their leader by a large majority in November.
The new Senate also gaveled into session Tuesday but with far less drama. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and McConnell are back in their respective positions, while Sen. Patty Murray was elected as the new president pro tem.