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Kevin McCarthy loses 4th, 5th and 6th votes for House speaker

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., lost three more votes for House speaker on Wednesday, extending the process to at least a seventh ballot and continuing the embarrassment for Republicans.

McCarthy lost three rounds of voting on Tuesday, marking the first time in a century that the selection of a House speaker needed more than one ballot. After 19 Republican defections on the first two rounds, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida voted against McCarthy on the third ballot, bringing the number of Republican votes against him to 20. On Wednesday, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, nominated Donalds as an alternative candidate to McCarthy.

“There’s an important reason for nominating Byron, and that is this country needs leadership that does not represent this city, this town, that is badly broken,” Roy said. When Donalds voted for himself on Wednesday, there were some cheers in the chamber.

Kevin McCarthy gets a pat on the back.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy gets a pat on the back from one of his House colleagues prior to a fourth round of voting for House speaker. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Anti-McCarthy Republicans had voted for a number of alternative candidates on the first ballot before settling on Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has continued to support McCarthy. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., gave a speech nominating McCarthy to start the proceedings Wednesday, urging Republicans to rally around the former minority leader and noting that Democrats are enjoying the chaos within their caucus.

Twenty Republicans voted against McCarthy on the fourth ballot, and one, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, switched her vote from McCarthy to “present.” It was the same alignment on the fifth and sixth ballots.

The lack of movement toward McCarthy came despite an affirmation of support from former President Donald Trump. Nominating Donalds for the fifth ballot, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., noted Trump's lobbying for him and said, "The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, 'Sir, you do not have the votes and it's time to withdraw.'"

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While he has supported McCarthy thus far, Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., told CNN that he might not continue to vote for him and has suggested that Republicans may need to consider putting forth a different candidate. Buck said that Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana., the current No. 2 in Republican leadership, is a potential option, but conceded that Scalise likely didn’t have the necessary votes either. Buck did support McCarthy on the sixth ballot.

McCarthy attempted to woo his GOP critics by endorsing rule changes, including one that would make it easier for a smaller group of members to challenge leadership in a procedure known as vacating the chair. The California Republican, who had lost a bid for speaker in 2015, urged the party to support him in a closed-door meeting Tuesday, saying, “I earned this job.” He and his allies have vowed to continue with as many ballots as it takes, but it’s possible he will be forced to withdraw, or a different consensus candidate will emerge.

The last time the selection of a House speaker took more than one ballot was 1923, when nine ballots were required for Frederick Gillett to take the gavel. It took the 34th Congress, which convened in 1855, 133 ballots and two months to settle on Nathaniel Prentice Banks.

Democrats were united behind New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who succeeded former Speaker Nancy Pelosi as their party’s House leader last month after she stepped down. Pelosi, still in office as a rank-and-file member, was cheered Tuesday when she voted for Jeffries on the first ballot.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is applauded.
Incoming Democratic leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is applauded in the House chamber on Tuesday. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

"This is their problem,” Pelosi told reporters Wednesday of her Republican colleagues. “Their lack of respect for this institution. Their lack of respect for the responsibility that we all have to respect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Get the job done for the American people." Asked how she would describe this moment, she added, "This is very sad."

Speaking at the White House Wednesday morning, President Biden called the chaos among Republicans “embarrassing” and “not a good look,” adding, “I hope they get their act together,” before noting that his focus was on “getting things done.”

“That’s not my problem,” Biden said. “I just think it’s really embarrassing it’s taking so long.”

On Tuesday, the Senate selected Democrat Patty Murray of Washington as the first female president pro tem in the chamber’s history, replacing retiring Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. The chain of succession for president is vice president, then House speaker, then president pro tem, which led Murray to joke on her place in line, "Well, today I’m second, because Kevin McCarthy’s not speaker."