‘The fever’s got to break’: When will there be a House speaker?

Members-elect from across GOP agree there’s no plan how to get past impasse and future looks uncertain

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Friday 06 January 2023 13:38 GMT
Related video: Joe Biden calls Republican house speaker chaos ‘embarrassing’

It remains unclear when there will be a new speaker of the House elected, as Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy scrambles to garner support for his flailing bid for the speakership.

The GOP leader has lost 11 votes in three days to become speaker this week, coming short of the 218 votes he needs for a majority in the chamber.

It’s the first time in a century that the election of a House speaker has gone into multiple ballots.

The number of votes needed to clinch the gavel may change if some members-elect vote “present” or choose not to appear for votes, meaning that the threshold for a majority is lower, something which appears unlikely to happen.

In the initial two rounds of voting on Tuesday, 19 Republicans voted against Mr McCarthy, with 20 Republicans voting against him in the third round. With 222 Republicans elected to the House in the 2022 midterms, Mr McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes as Democrats appear unwilling to help him across the finish line.

Several more roll call votes took place on Wednesday and Thursday – all also coming up short. The House will now meet again on Friday to keep voting and trying to hammer out a deal to elect a speaker so that regular House business can commence.

Despite the humiliating loss, Mr McCarthy remained defiant telling reporters that processes “take a little longer” and don’t “meet your deadline”.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he insisted on Thursday evening. “If we finish well, we’ll be very successful.”

While allies of the GOP leader have been trying to negotiate with the dissenters, dubbed by some in the Republican Party on Tuesday as the “Taliban 19”, there are few signs of optimism that the gridlock will lift.

Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick, an ally of Mr McCarthy who’s speaking to the rightwing members opposing the leader, said, “I don’t think anyone should be assuming something drastic happens quickly. We have to be patient”.

“The fever’s got to break here. The very thing that’s got to happen is the temperature has got to come down,” he added, according to Politico.

“Personally I think we should have an agreement before we go to the floor, but that’s not my decision,” he said.

Republican members-elect from all parts of the House conference agree on one thing – there’s no plan and it remains unclear what happens next, the outlet noted. Reports of a deal have surfaced on Thursday night but some of the holdouts continued to vow that they will not support Mr McCarthy’s bid.

“I will not be voting for Kevin McCarthy,” Matt Gaetz tweeted late on Thursday night.

“I resent the extent to which he utilizes the lobbyists and special interests to dictate how political decisions, policy decisions, and leadership decisions are made. We have zero trust in him.”

Late on Tuesday night, Mr McCarthy suggested that he may attempt to get some of his members to vote “present” instead of for another candidate, lowering the threshold for him to become speaker.

“You just have to get more votes than 212, where the Democrats are. Ideally, it’d be nice to get 222,” he said in reference to the total number of Republicans in the chamber.

The 212 Democrats elected have remained unified behind their new leader – Brooklyn, New York Representative-elect Hakeem Jeffries.

But some of the Republicans blocking Mr McCarthy’s path to the speakership, rejected the idea of voting “present”.

Mr Gaetz said the notion was “absurd” and Chip Roy of Texas said, “I just don’t see it”.

“If he’s literally trying to patchwork votes together, to scrap together the votes by trying to carve out present votes and hope some people don’t show up or something — I just don’t see that as a path to a strong leadership position,” Mr Roy added, according to Politico.

“We’re basically at an impasse. So what are we going to do, have the same vote numbers for 10 ballots? That’s ridiculous and that makes no sense,” Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican, said. “He’s got to prove he can get there. At the end of the day, you have to close the deal. … We do not reward not being able to close deals.”

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