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Day 1 of GOP-Led House Shows Party Disunity as McCarthy Fails to Win Speaker

McCarthy blamed his losses on far right GOP House members that "want something for their personal selves."

Rep. Kevin McCarthy sits in the House Chamber during the third round of votes for House Speaker on the opening day of the 118th Congress on January 3, 2023, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in a century, the vote to choose the Speaker of the House of Representatives for a new session of Congress went beyond the first ballot — and as of Wednesday morning, had yet to be determined, in spite of Republicans having a majority of seats in the congressional chamber.

For any person to become speaker, they must attain a majority of votes from within the House — 218 votes total. If no one reaches that number, the House must repeat the vote, continuing the process of nominating and voting on candidates until one of them achieves a majority.

Intraparty squabbles resulted in Republicans failing to unify behind House GOP Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California). According to McCarthy, who spoke to reporters prior to the first vote, a coalition of far right lawmakers was unwilling to negotiate with him in good faith, making demands for congressional committee posts he couldn’t compromise on.

“Last night I was presented [with the idea that] the only way to have 218 votes [was] if I provided certain members with certain positions,” McCarthy said on Tuesday morning.

McCarthy met with Republicans behind closed doors shortly after that statement, berating those who were still committed to voting against him and arguing that he had “earned” the job.

Three rounds of voting took place on Tuesday, with McCarthy failing to win a majority all three times. The Democratic Party’s nominee, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), won the plurality on all three occasions.

In the first round, 19 Republicans voted against McCarthy, with 10 voting for Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona) and nine votes going toward other GOP candidates. In the second round, all 19 opposing votes went to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), in spite of Jordan urging his supporters to vote for McCarthy. And in the third round, McCarthy lost by a slightly larger margin, with Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Florida) switching his vote from McCarthy to Jordan, for a total of 20 Republicans backing Jordan over McCarthy — again, in spite of Jordan saying he didn’t want the speakership.

The House may reconvene on Wednesday at noon to continue the process of trying to select a speaker.

Following his embarrassing losses in all three rounds, McCarthy expressed frustration toward the lawmakers who stood in the way of him becoming speaker, arguing that their actions were selfish.

“This isn’t about me,” he said to reporters. “This is about the conference now because the members who are holding out … they want something for their personal selves.”

Democratic lawmakers noted that McCarthy’s inability to rein in extremists within his party is likely an indication of how the GOP will govern in the future.

“[Republicans’] inability to select a Speaker and their extremist and unpopular legislative priorities have proven that they’re unserious and incapable of competent governance,” Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-New Mexico) said in a statement.

“The last time a Speaker wasn’t elected on the first vote was 100 years ago,” tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington). “One day in and Republicans are already making history — by proving they cannot govern.”

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