In a stunning confirmation of the deep divisions within the “Republican” party, the newly installed GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives failed to elect a new leader on the first three ballots.
The historic setbacks marked only the second time since the War Between the States that a ruling party in the House failed to nominate a leader on the first ballot. As a result, the GOP will have to wait until it can muster sufficient support for a speaker candidate before its members can begin acting as a check against the administration of Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.
Also, expect Democrats to seize upon the divisions within the party in the hopes of checking that “check.”
On the first ballot, nineteen GOP members voted against the speakership of Kevin McCarthy – a California moderate who has spent the past four years as minority leader in a Democratic-controlled House. The defections left McCarthy fifteen votes shy of the majority he needed to secure this post.
A second vote was held shortly thereafter following an impassioned floor speech from conservative lawmaker Jim Jordan of Ohio – who received six votes on the first ballot.
“I think Kevin McCarthy is the right guy to lead us,” Jordan said. “I really do, or I wouldn’t be standing up here giving this speech.”
Once again, though, McCarthy came up short on the second ballot – losing nineteen GOP members and falling fifteen votes shy of his goal. This time, all nineteen defectors voted for Jordan.
“I think it’s going to be increasingly clear that he’s not going to be speaker,” Bob Good of Virginia told reporters after the second vote. “We will never cave.”
McCarthy made it clear he had no intention of caving, either.
“We have certain members right now who think they can use a small majority to get themselves the gavel,” he told reporters. “That’s not how it works.”
Is it, though?
By the time the third ballot was counted, McCarthy was clearly losing momentum – with 20 defectors now voting against his bid. Second-term congressman Byron Donalds of Florida joined the nineteen GOP members who opposed McCarthy on the first two ballots.
“Republicans” hold 222 seats following the 2022 elections – in which an expected “red wave” failed to materialize. Democrats hold 212 seats but are expected to pick up one additional seat after a February 21 special election to fill the Virginia seat vacated by the November 28, 2022 passing of Donald McEachin.
All but one member of the South Carolina GOP congressional delegation – fifth district congressman Ralph Norman of Rock Hill, S.C. – voted for McCarthy on both of the first two ballots.
Norman previously told his colleagues he would “vote for Mickey Mouse” before he voted for McCarthy.
Why does this matter?
Well, nothing can happen in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 118th Congress until a new speaker is chosen. That includes new members – including South Carolina seventh district representative-elect Russell Fry – being sworn in.
The scene that unfolded in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday had not happened since 1923 – when it took nine votes for the U.S. House to elect Massachusetts Republican Frederick Huntington Gillett as speaker.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has an incredible hat collection including that Tampa Bay Rays sunburst batting practice lid.
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