Kevin McCarthy House speaker election now 5th longest in US history

U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walks to a meeting with House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 03, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Today members of the 118th Congress will be sworn in and the House of Representatives will hold votes on a new Speaker of the House.
U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., walks to a meeting with House Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 03, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Today members of the 118th Congress will be sworn in and the House of Representatives will hold votes on a new Speaker of the House. | Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The current effort to determine the speaker of the United States House of Representatives has become the fifth longest speaker vote in American history, even as Republican Kevin McCarthy has started to gain ground in his vote total. 

The House performed its 13th ballot on Friday afternoon, with no nominee getting enough votes to become House speaker. This number of ballots surpassed the 12 ballots that were needed to make Philip Barbour the House speaker for the 17th Congress (1821-1823). 

The record remains with Nathanial Prentice Banks of Massachusetts, who had to endure 133 ballots cast over the span of two months before becoming House speaker for the 34th Congress (1855-1857).

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READ 4 longest House speaker elections in US history

Until the House votes for a speaker, it cannot conduct any business, including the swearing in of members elected last November who make up the 118th Congress.

For the 12th ballot, which was the first ballot of the day, Rep. Mike Garcia of California nominated McCarthy, arguing that the issue was not about McCarthy, but rather was about broader issues facing the United States.

“This isn’t about a man in a suit in the halls of Congress, it is about 330 million Americans, it’s about the preservation of the Constitution and the liberties guaranteed therein, it’s about the 246 years of pride and providence that we have enjoyed as a nation,” said Garcia.

Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina nominated Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York for House speaker, saying that he was “a good man who has the best interests of the American people at heart.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who had previously nominated former President Donald Trump, nominated Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio for House speaker, even though Jordan himself has been a supporter of McCarthy.  

Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado then nominated Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, while Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, who had been a past favorite of anti-McCarthy voters, went unnominated.

The results of the 12th ballot on Friday afternoon were 213 votes for McCarthy, 211 votes for Jeffries, four votes for Jordan, and three votes for Hern. It marked the first ballot where McCarthy garnered more votes than Jeffries.

Although McCarthy was unsuccessful in getting enough votes for the speakership on the 12th ballot, he did get several Republicans who had previously voted against him to support him. 

This success was attributed to extensive behind-the-scenes conversations and concessions with Republican holdouts, who had been opposed to McCarthy for various reasons. 

Jeffries got one fewer vote than previous ballots because Democrat Rep. David Trone of Maryland was absent due to his undergoing a surgery unrelated to a previous battle with cancer.

For the 13th ballot, Rep. James Comer of Kentucky nominated McCarthy, while Democrat Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas nominated Jeffries, with no other nominations given before voting.

McCarthy received 214 votes on the 13th ballot, the highest he had received since voting began, while Jeffries got 212 votes, thanks to Trone voting for Jeffries shortly after his surgery was completed. 

The remaining votes on the 13th ballot went to Jordan, who had previously endorsed McCarthy for House speaker. 

After the results of the 13th ballot were announced, the House voted to adjourn until 10 p.m. Eastern time on Friday. 

Over the past few days, McCarthy has failed to get the necessary number of votes to become Speaker of the House, even though his party holds a majority in the incoming Congress.

His failure to become House speaker on the first vote has become a historic milestone, as the last time the House failed to confirm a speaker in the first ballot was in 1923, when it took nine.  

A key problem are several House Republican members who do not believe that McCarthy will implement certain conservative policies or create rules that will help the chamber function better.

In an interview with conservative podcaster Michael Knowles on Thursday, Boebert claimed that these issues stemmed from meetings held over the past several months in private with McCarthy.

Boebert claimed that, on Monday, McCarthy rejected “common sense issues” brought up by herself, Gaetz, and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, including bringing up certain rules and bills to the floor for a vote.

“And then Jan. 2, when all of that was laid on the table, Kevin McCarthy laughed us out of the room, said that it was a ‘selfish wish list,’ and would not take the deal,” said Boebert.

“So, it doesn’t if I go to the floor to vote for Kevin McCarthy, because there are now, more than ever, votes that he does not have to get to that speakership.”

For his part, McCarthy wrote a letter to his fellow Republican members promising that he would “work with everyone in our party to build conservative consensus.”  

“It’s time for our new Republican majority to embrace these bold reforms and move forward as one,” wrote McCarthy, as quoted by the Washington Post.

“That’s why on January 3 — and every day thereafter — I stand ready to be judged not by my words, but by my actions as Speaker.”

Meanwhile, House Democrats have unanimously voted in favor of Jeffries, giving the congressman 212 votes for the first 11 ballots and showing no signs of offering support for McCarthy.

Rep. Pete Aguilar of California nominated Jeffries for the first few ballots, describing Jeffries in his first nomination speech as “the pride of Brooklyn” who will “put people over politics.”

“Jeffries has worked his entire life to improve economic opportunity for all people. He is committed to strengthening the American Dream,” Aguilar stated. “From voting rights to reproductive rights, we are united.”

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