A group of 19 hard-line House Republicans blocked GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) from securing the gavel on the first vote to elect a Speaker on Tuesday, sending the House to a second ballot for the first time in a century.
The vote was 203 for McCarthy, 212 for House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), 10 for Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), six for Rep Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), one for Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), one for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and one for former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.).
No members voted “present” or were absent, which would have lowered the threshold that McCarthy must meet to get majority support.
That put McCarthy below the threshold of a majority of the 218 members voting for a Speaker candidate.
A second vote for Speaker began immediately, and the House will continue through possibly multiple ballots until a Speaker is elected.
In a House Republican Conference meeting Tuesday morning, an impassioned McCarthy vowed to wage a long battle for the Speakership.
“I have the record for the longest speech ever on the floor. I don’t have a problem getting a record for most votes for Speaker, too,” McCarthy told reporters after the meeting.
McCarthy has faced weeks of opposition from hard-line conservatives including Biggs and Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.), Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who had been known as the “Never Kevin” group. They said McCarthy’s resistance to rules changes, involvement in primaries and leadership history — among other issues — meant they could not support him for Speaker.
Over the weekend, McCarthy offered some late concessions to those withholding support for him, including allowing a move to “vacate the chair” — a move to force a vote on ousting the Speaker — with the approval of five Republican members, rather than a threshold of at least half of the House Republican Conference.
But that did little to sway his critics, as nine House Republicans — not including the “Never Kevin” five — signaled in a Sunday letter.
“At this stage, it cannot be a surprise that expressions of vague hopes reflected in far too many of the crucial points still under debate are insufficient,” the members said in the letter, led by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.).
Allies of McCarthy have signaled they will not waver in their support for him as long as he stays in the running.
The vote marks the first time since 1923 that the House Speaker election has gone to multiple ballots. That year, the election took nine ballots over three days. Before that, 13 other multiple-ballot Speaker elections occurred before the Civil War.