The House adjourns, still without a speaker

Published January 4, 2023 at 10:15 AM EST
Kevin McCarthy listens in the House chamber during the second day of elections for speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
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Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., listens in the House chamber during the second day of elections for speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

The House has adjourned until Thursday at noon ET after six failed attempts to elect a leader of the chamber.

Here's what's happening: A group of Republicans are steadfast in their opposition to Rep. Kevin McCarthy's bid for speaker. On Wednesday they rallied around Florida Rep. Byron Donalds instead.

What Democrats are doing: Democrats just handed control of the House to Republicans. Now they're watching the chaos with popcorn in hand. But they're also standing behind their own historic leader, Hakeem Jeffries.

How we got here: McCarthy has wanted to be speaker — badly — for years, and seemed willing to do a lot of things to get the job.

🎧 Listen to the NPR Politics Podcast to get caught up. Follow Thursday's updates on NPR.org.

Just In

Boebert nominates Byron Donalds — and urges McCarthy to withdraw

Posted January 4, 2023 at 2:12 PM EST

Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado stood up to nominate her colleague, Rep. Byron Donalds, for a second time, saying he was the leader who could unite a fractured Republican Party.

"Our job is not to keep on going along to get along. It's to use our votes to elect a speaker who will get the country back on chance," she said. "Let's work together. Let's stop with the campaign smears and tactics to get people to turn against us."

Boebert said former President Trump had called those in the defecting faction personally to try to convince them to vote for McCarthy.

"I actually think it needs to be reversed," she said. "I think the president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy: You do not have the votes and it's time to withdraw."

And with that, a fifth vote for speaker of the House is underway. Stand by for updates.

ICYMI

The House is adjourned until Thursday

Posted January 4, 2023 at 8:39 PM EST

After a narrow 216-214 vote, the House of Representatives will adjourn until Thursday instead of making a seventh attempt to elect a leader on Wednesday night.

The chamber was in an uproar after returning to session Wednesday evening when Republicans requested the adjournment, with lawmakers shouting on both sides of the aisle.

For the first time in two days, nearly all of the House Republicans were on the same page, voting in favor of the break. Meanwhile, Democrats urged lawmakers to continue the session.

Context

House GOP veterans see lack of speaker as threat to national security

Posted January 4, 2023 at 7:28 PM EST
Republican members speak during a news conference of Republicans, mainly veterans and medical professionals, who support Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. for Speaker of the House, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
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AP
Republican members speak during a news conference of Republicans, mainly veterans and medical professionals, who support Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. for Speaker of the House, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Sixteen House Republicans – all veterans – said that electing a speaker imminently is a matter of national security.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said that the panel's classified security briefs and other official matters have to be put on hold because lawmakers are not sworn in as official members of Congress until after the speaker is elected.

“We don’t have access to anything,” Wenstrup said at a press conference on Wednesday evening.. “As there’s threats around the world, we would get daily briefs, if we want them, we’re in there all the time, and right now we can’t get in there at all.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., said he and Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., were supposed to meet with the chairman of the joint chiefs today. “But I’m informed by House security that technically I don’t have a clearance. I’m a member of the Intelligence Committee, I’m a member of the Armed Services Committee, and I can’t meet in the SCIF [sensitive compartmented information facility] to conduct essential business,” he said.

All the GOP veterans urged the 20 Republicans who voted for Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., for speaker on Wednesday to instead vote for the party's leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Analysis

Here’s what happened when the House failed to vote in a speaker 100 years ago

Posted January 4, 2023 at 6:14 PM EST
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talks briefly with reporters before heading into House Republican caucus leadership elections on Tuesday. His party will have control of the House of Representatives in January.
Chip Somodevilla
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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talks briefly with reporters before heading into House Republican caucus leadership elections on Tuesday. He has so far failed to secure the speaker of the House position over six ballots, the first time since it last happened 100 years ago.

The buzz on Capitol Hill this week has to be that the House hasn’t needed multiple ballots to elect a House speaker in 100 years. Here’s what happened the last time there wasn’t a clean sweep for a chamber leader.

In December 1923, Frederick H. Gillett of Massachusetts got a mere 197 votes—less than Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California did Tuesday—on his first ballot. It took several days and nine ballots for Gillett to win the 215-majority needed at the time.

The perceived definition of party loyalty has long been for members to vote lockstep with their side’s nominee for House speaker. It wasn’t until the late '90s that politicians began to stray from their party’s choice — but even then, that didn't stop Democrats or Republicans from electing a leader.

Read more about what happened in 1923 and how it compares to the House vote this week here.

ICYMI

The House has adjourned until 8 p.m. EST after sixth failed vote for speaker

Posted January 4, 2023 at 4:49 PM EST

The House of Representatives has adjourned until Wednesday evening after failing to elect a speaker for the sixth time in two days.

Members of the House in a split voice vote — many loudly rejecting the motion to adjourn — decided to adjourn until 8 p.m. EST. A seventh vote could take place when lawmakers return tonight.

The sixth round was identical to rounds four and five.

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., 212
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., 201
  • Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., 20
  • One Republican member voted, present

Kevin McCarthy loses again in sixth-round of failed voting for House speaker

Posted January 4, 2023 at 4:33 PM EST

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy lost in his sixth bid for speaker of the House.

For the sixth time in a row, Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York received the most votes for speaker of the House, while Republicans struggle to elect a leader, despite having the majority in the chamber.

Twenty-one GOP members continue standing their ground against McCarthy, instead largely voting for Republican Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, with one member voting "present."

The sixth round of voting yielded the same results as Round 5:

Jeffries, 212
McCarthy, 201
Donalds, 20
Present, 1

Republicans again nominate McCarthy and Donalds in Round 6

Posted January 4, 2023 at 4:07 PM EST

Before moving into a sixth attempt to elect a new speaker of the House, Republicans spoke in hopes of swaying votes for their nominees.

Rep. Kat Cammack from Florida nominated California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, calling on her fellow GOP members to vote for him, despite their differences, because it's in the best interest of the American people.

"Yesterday, as we were here on the House floor, our constituents from all around the country made their voices heard. Today the calls, text messages, the emails, they all continue. People are letting their voice be heard, and that is a very, very good thing," Cammack said. "… To all Americans watching right now, I want to tell you that we hear you. We hear you, and we will get this right, no matter how messy this process is, we will emerge better for having been through this because nothing great ever comes easy.”

She went on to say that she understands why some of her fellow Republicans have trust issues — however, she implored them to have trust in the American people who voted for McCarthy.

"If we continue down this road, if we continue with the actions of yesterday and today, we stifle the will of the American people … every single returning Republican in this chamber who cast a vote two years ago in the last Congress voted for Kevin McCarthy," Cammack said. "We were united then, and we must unify now, that’s the only way to start the people’s business."

For his part, Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., told House members that Washington is broken, and more run-of-the-mill leaders won't change anything.

“Washington is completely broken," Perry said, referencing illegal immigration and fentanyl overdoses as issues that need addressing.

He went on to say that politicians keep doing the same thing, which is why nothing changes. To fix a broken Congress, he nominated Florida Rep. Byron Donalds. He acknowledged that a stalled vote hadn't happened in more than a century, but called the process necessary.

The House then moved onto a sixth vote for speaker. The tally is ongoing.

It's official: McCarthy loses a fifth round

Posted January 4, 2023 at 3:19 PM EST

The clerk confirms that McCarthy has fallen short of the votes needed to be speaker for a fifth time. A sixth round is starting now.

Biden and McConnell offer a counterpoint to House tension

Posted January 4, 2023 at 3:02 PM EST
President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shake hands at a podium near the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge in Covington, Ky.
Jim Watson
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AFP via Getty Images
President Biden shakes hands with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during an event about the bipartisan infrastructure law in front of the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge in Covington, Ky., on Wednesday.

Announcing a big upgrade in the Brent Spence Bridge between Covington, Ky., and Cincinnati that has been decades in the making, President Biden provided a bipartisan split-screen counterpoint to the drama on the House floor.

It was Biden’s first event of the year — marking the beginning of divided government in Washington — and he said he chose it to send a message.

“We can work together. We can get things done. We can move the nation forward, if we just drop a little bit of our egos and focus on what is needed in the country,” Biden said.

In the crowd: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Biden praised him for supporting last year’s infrastructure bill, saying “it wouldn’t have happened without your hand.”

“Here’s what matters: he’s a man of his word. When he gives you his word, you can take it to the bank, you can count on it, and he’s willing to find common ground to get things done for the country,” Biden said.

Just In

McCarthy appears to lose a fifth round of voting

Posted January 4, 2023 at 2:51 PM EST

The House of Representatives once again failed to elect a speaker in its fifth round of voting.

Democrats continue to stand together, with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York receiving the most votes, while 21 Republicans refuse to vote for Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.

In the fifth round of voting, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., nominated fellow Republican Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and urged McCarthy to stand down.

The preliminary vote tally for Round 5 was identical to Round 4:

  • Jeffries, 212
  • McCarthy, 201
  • Donalds, 20
  • Present, 1
Just In

McCarthy is poised to lose a fifth vote

Posted January 4, 2023 at 2:14 PM EST

Donalds has received five Republican votes, meaning McCarthy appears to have suffered defeat for a fifth time.

As a quick refresher: McCarthy needs at least 217 votes to win the speakership, but with Democrats looking united in their votes for Jeffries, McCarthy can only afford to lose five of the 222 Republican votes.

Democrats nominate Jeffries again, emphasizing their solidarity

Posted January 4, 2023 at 2:02 PM EST

Rep. Pete Aguilar, a Democrat of California, nominated Rep. Hakeem Jeffries for the second time today in a short speech that emphasized his record on reproductive rights.

"The lead vote-getter in the last four tallies, Democrats are united behind a speaker who will work to codify the right to seek an abortion into law," he said.

"Like all of us, Hakeem has spoken about, consistently, the disastrous Dobbs decision, he has spoken time and time again that it is well past time to codify Roe v. Wade into law and he knows young women should not grow up in a world with fewer rights than their parents and grandparents."

His nomination was met with hearty applause.

Jeffries, the leader of the House Democratic Caucus (and first Black person to lead a major political party in Congress), gained 212 votes in Wednesday's first round of voting — more than McCarthy.

And he's weighed in on Twitter about the process. On Tuesday, he said House Democrats are "united and ready to work," drawing a contrast between them and "complete chaos on the other side of the aisle."

He echoed the sentiment in a Tweet posted during Wednesday's first vote, in which he promised that House Democrats will put "people over politics."

Just In

House is moving toward a fifth vote

Posted January 4, 2023 at 1:54 PM EST

Following the readout of the official tally, Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio nominated McCarthy, again, for speaker.

"A majority is only a majority if we actually work together," Davidson said, shortly before he read off a lengthy list of reforms the Republican caucus had already agreed on.

"Can we accept incremental progress? Can we work towards a victory one first down at a time? Or can we only settle for high-risk plays," he said. "For having achieved nearly every concession we've asked for ... does it really boil down to this, that 20 or more of my colleagues will never trust Kevin McCarthy."

Stay tuned for the Democratic nomination.

Believe it or not, this isn't the longest speaker election. That was in the 1850s

Posted January 4, 2023 at 1:52 PM EST
A blurry view of the House of Representatives, reflected off the U.S. Capitol dome.
Stefani Reynolds
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AFP
The House of Representatives' longest speaker election, in the 1850s, lasted for two months.

The first ballot of the second day of speaker voting didn't go in Rep. Kevin McCarthy's favor, for the fourth time.

This is the ninth-longest vote for speaker in U.S. history, NBC News and MSNBC political correspondent Steve Kornacki tweeted.

And it begs the question: Has something like this ever happened before, and how did it ultimately get resolved?

Rarely, and slowly.

The House of Representatives says the "longest and most contentious" speaker election in its history took two months and 133 ballots, and ended with Massachusetts Rep. Nathaniel Banks taking up the gavel in 1856.

"Sectional conflict over slavery and a rising anti-immigrant mood in the nation contributed to a poisoned and deteriorating political climate," the House website says. "As a sign of the factionalism then existing in the House, more than 21 individuals initially vied for the Speaker’s post when the Members first gathered in December, 1855."

The House eventually chose Banks over South Carolina Rep. William Aiken by a vote of 103 to 100. That's well short of the 218 votes McCarthy needs these days.

That's not to say that other speaker elections haven't required multiple rounds. The House has been electing its speaker since 1789, and its records show 14 such instances.

Thirteen of those happened before the Civil War, it says, "when party divisions were more nebulous."

The last time a speaker election required two or more votes on the floor was 1923 — exactly 100 years ago.

Lawmakers are venting their frustrations with the process

Posted January 4, 2023 at 1:45 PM EST

Even before the final vote (of ballot No. 4) was gaveled in, some lawmakers took to Twitter to express their frustration at the latest result — albeit for different reasons.

Rep. Andy Biggs, the Arizona Republican who challenged McCarthy in Tuesday's first vote, noted the growing opposition to McCarthy and called on him to "hang up the cleats and let the House move forward without him at the helm."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican who voted in favor of McCarthy, took the opposite stance. She noted that on Day 2 of voting, "the same Never Kevin group is now on their 3rd Speaker candidate" and "people are truly beginning to realize they have no plan."

Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, tweeted that "Republicans are in disarray." He pointed out that the longest record for such a vote was set in 1855, adding, "Records were made to be broken."

Context

The defectors picked up one new vote (well, sort of)

Posted January 4, 2023 at 1:37 PM EST

We're still waiting for the clerk to officially gavel in the results. But based on a preliminary tally, 20 Republicans who voted for Jim Jordan yesterday voted for Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida today. They were:

  • Andy Biggs (AZ)
  • Dan Bishop (NC)
  • Lauren Boebert (CO)
  • Josh Brecheen* (OK)
  • Michael Cloud (TX)
  • Andrew Clyde (GA)
  • Elijah Crane* (AZ)
  • Byron Donalds (FL)
  • Matt Gaetz (FL)
  • Bob Good (VA)
  • Paul Gosar (AZ)
  • Andy Harris (MD)
  • Anna Paulina Luna* (FL)
  • Mary Miller (IL)
  • Ralph Norman (SC)
  • Andrew Ogles* (TN)
  • Scott Perry (PA)
  • Matthew Rosendale (MT)
  • Chip Roy (TX)
  • Keith Self* (TX)

But one more Republican — Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana — helped to shake up the final numbers. After voting for McCarthy in the first three rounds, she voted "present" today, bringing the total number of McCarthy's defectors up to 21.

Spartz grew up in Ukraine.

As the speaker vote drags on, reps.-elect remain in limbo

Posted January 4, 2023 at 1:34 PM EST
A child sits on the lap of Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., during opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
Andrew Harnik
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AP
A child sits on the lap of Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., during opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.

All 434 members of Congress have to wait for a new speaker to be elected in order to start the work of legislation and committees. But for the 77 freshmen elected for the first time in November, they’re still waiting to shed the title of representative-elect.

Normally, new members are officially sworn in by the new speaker. Spouses, children and parents of the newest members wait on the House floor to take a picture with the speaker while their loved one takes their oath to defend the Constitution.

Those oaths and family photos were scheduled for yesterday at 3 p.m.

During the first ballot on Tuesday afternoon, members’ children could be seen fidgeting in chairs, sitting in parents’ laps, and occasionally roaming the aisles. But as the ballots continued on in the afternoon, these families trickled out, knowing their parents’ moment in the spotlight would be delayed.

Incoming Rep. Robert Menendez Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, holds his child during the first day of the 118th Congress in the U.S. Capitol's House chamber on Jan. 3.
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Incoming Rep. Robert Menendez Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, holds his child during the first day of the 118th Congress in the U.S. Capitol's House chamber on Jan. 3.

New members will still be sworn in after a speaker is decided, with smiling family members joining them. The only question that remains is when that swearing-in will take place.

Just In

Final results: McCarthy gets fewer votes than yesterday

Posted January 4, 2023 at 1:23 PM EST

The fourth vote for speaker of the House is, again, inconclusive. According to the preliminary tally:

Rep. Kevin McCarthy got 201 votes, short of the 218 he needs for a majority and fewer than the 203 and 202 he got yesterday.

One lawmaker, Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, switched her vote from McCarthy to "present" today.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic nominee, got 212 votes thanks to a united showing by his party.

And Rep. Byron Donalds, another Republican, had 20 votes in his favor.

McCarthy signaled he expected this outcome today

Posted January 4, 2023 at 1:17 PM EST
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04: U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to media as he heads to the House Chamber during the second day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is meeting to vote for the next Speaker after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to earn more than 218 votes on three separate Tuesday ballots, the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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Kevin McCarthy speaks to the media as he heads to the House chamber during the second day of elections for speaker of the House today.

Speaking to reporters on his way into today's session, McCarthy appeared upbeat in tone, but discouraged in message.

"I didn't say we were going to get them today," he said of moving votes in his direction. "I said we were going to keep talking and we'd find an agreement and we'd talk and we'll get through it."

He also seemed supportive of a suggestion that adjourning for the day might be better than going through the performative motions of multiple votes.

"I think what would be best if we sit in a room and talk through this," he said. "We'll get there."

Breaking News

McCarthy appears to lose a fourth vote for speaker

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:42 PM EST

Republican Rep. Byron Donalds has received five votes, meaning that, if all representatives are voting today, and all Democrats continue to vote for Jeffries, McCarthy won't get the 218 votes he needs to reach a majority.

A lone few hands of applause and a louder murmur covered the chamber when the fifth Donalds vote was registered.

Voting is still underway.

Just In

A fourth vote for House speaker is now underway

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:34 PM EST

The House is now taking a roll call vote on the three nominees. Because every member will need to shout out their answer, we expect this might take some time.

Stay tuned.

A third nominee enters the ring: Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:32 PM EST

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas rose to nominate Florida Rep. Byron Donalds for speaker of the House, calling him "a dear friend, a solid conservative, but most importantly, a family man who loves dearly his wife Erika, his three children, has a proved track record as a businessman, public service in the Florida legislature and now as a member of the United States Congress."

He added that now, for the first time in history, two Black Americans have been nominated to serve as speaker. Donalds is Black, as is New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries.

"We do not seek to judge people by the color of their skin but rather the content of their character," Roy said, evoking Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have A Dream speech and prompting a hearty round of applause.

He said he is nominating Donalds because of his qualifications, and because "this country needs a change." Donalds was first elected in 2021.

"This country needs leadership that does not reflect this city, this town, that is badly broken," Roy said, concluding by asking his colleagues whether they think the American people want the status quo to continue.

Just In

Democrats nominate Hakeem Jeffries (again)

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:29 PM EST

As was predicted, Rep. Pete Aguilar of California nominated his Democratic colleague Hakeem Jeffries of New York again for speaker.

"There is no frustration on our side, we're focused on serving the American people," Aguilar said after raucous applause. "In order to do that, we have to unite behind a speaker."

This is the fourth time the Democrats have nominated Jeffries. The party consistently and unanimously voted for the Democrat during yesterday's session.

Gallagher nominates McCarthy for speaker, says democracy should be messy

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:26 PM EST

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Republican from Wisconsin, formally nominated Rep. Kevin McCarthy for speaker of the House, prompting a lengthy round of applause from many in the room.

In his remarks, Gallagher acknowledged the frustration of his colleagues but encouraged them to take a moment to reflect on how lucky they are to serve their country and be citizens of the U.S.

He also called out media outlets and Democratic lawmakers for what he described as palpable schadenfreude about the process.

"Sure, it looks messy. But democracy is messy, by design," he said. "And that's a feature, not a bug, of our system."

Just In

House is moving toward a fourth vote

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:24 PM EST

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin moved quickly to nominate McCarthy (again) for speaker.

That means that after the Democrats nominate Jeffries again, as they've said they'll do, the House will shortly try a fourth vote.

One thing to watch: Only 351 of the 435 total representatives were present when the clerk called the quorum earlier. It's not yet clear who the 84 absent members were, but, if they stay absent, that could make what happens next interesting.

House members haven't been sworn in yet, contrary to some of their press releases

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:21 PM EST
Incoming U.S. Rep George Santos (R-N.Y.) sits in the House chamber on Monday.
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Incoming U.S. Rep George Santos, R-N.Y., sits in the House chamber on Monday.

Normally, on the first day of a new Congress, the speaker of the House administers the oath of office to all the new representatives.

Not this year. Because no speaker was elected, no new members were sworn in, either.

That didn't stop some of their offices from sending out generic (and possibly automated) press releases dated Jan. 3, as the Washington Postreported.

At least four incoming lawmakers posted statements to their websites announcing that they had been sworn in by the (unnamed) speaker of the house on Monday.

They are Robert Garcia, a California Democrat; Michael Lawler, a New York Republican; Yadira Caraveo, a Colorado Democrat and controversial New York Republican George Santos (who appears to have taken his announcement down).

Santos had been facing mounting scrutiny before he even got to D.C. after he was forced to acknowledge inventing or embellishing elements of his official biography — concerning his religion, work history, education and heritage. Federal and local prosecutors have opened investigations into potential criminal activity, and Brazilian authorities are reviving a 2008 checkbook fraud caseagainst him.

Day 2 of voting is off to a noisy start

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:13 PM EST

Wednesday's proceedings began with a prayer from the House chaplain and a group recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Footage from inside the chamber shows lawmakers — some seated, some standing — chatting to each other while the house clerk takes a headcount, their conversations creating a bit of a din.

Now that a quorum has been confirmed (with 351 members present), the session can begin and chatter can resume.

Breaking his silence, Trump urges Republicans to 'close the deal' and vote McCarthy

Posted January 4, 2023 at 12:05 PM EST
Then-president Donald Trump sits at a desk in the Oval Office in 2020, out of focus, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy standing behind him.
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Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/POOL/Getty Images
Then-president Donald Trump sits at a desk in the Oval Office, out of focus, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy standing behind him.

Former President Donald Trump didn't publicly endorse Kevin McCarthy in the days leading up to Tuesday's vote, even though his path to speaker has looked shaky for weeks.

Even on Tuesday, he declined to say whether he still backed McCarthy, telling NBC News that "we'll see what happens."

It wasn't until Wednesday — after McCarthy fell short on three ballots — that the former president showed his support via social media.

“Some really good conversations took place last night, and it’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY," Trump said in part of a post on Truth Social.

"REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT'S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB."

McCarthy and Trump have a famously chummy history. As NPR's Domenico Montanaro put it: "The pair were able to use each other — Trump for normalizing what he did Jan. 6 and in the runup; McCarthy for the speakership."

But the November midterms brought a smaller red wave than expected, leaving Republicans with only a narrow majority in the House and prompting some of the party's hard-liners to call for a leadership shakeup.

The influence of Trump's endorsement remains to be seen — at least one Republican who voted against McCarthy on Tuesday has said he is not swayed by it.

"Sad!" Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said in a Wednesday statement reported by Fox News. "This changes neither my view of McCarthy, nor Trump, nor my vote."

Just In

President Biden calls the speaker stalemate 'a little embarrassing'

Posted January 4, 2023 at 11:55 AM EST
US President Joe Biden speaks to the press before departing from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 4, 2023. - Biden is traveling to Covington, Kentucky, to tout infrastructure spending. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
MANDEL NGAN
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AFP via Getty Images
President Biden speaks to the press before departing the White House on Wednesday.

President Biden on Wednesday said he thought the House stalemate over the election for speaker was “a little embarrassing” and told reporters at the White House that “the rest of the world is looking — they’re looking at, you know, if we can get our act together.”

Biden, who was leaving for a trip to Kentucky to announce funding for bridge repairs with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, said the fight over the speaker was a House issue and said, “that’s not my problem.”

“I just think it’s a little embarrassing that it’s taking so long, and the way that they’re dealing with one another,” Biden said.

“How do you think this looks to the rest of the world?” he said, noting that the country was starting to get past “the whole issue relating to Jan. 6” when it happened.

“Things are settling out — and now for the first time in 100 years, we can’t move?” Biden said.

“It’s not a good look. It’s not a good thing. It’s the United States of America. And I hope they get their act together,” Biden said.

Just In

Will the Democrats help the Republicans sort this out?

Posted January 4, 2023 at 11:41 AM EST

In what feels like a turning-of-the-tables start to a new Congress, the Democrats have presented nothing short of a united front in the speaker vote.

Ahead of all three votes yesterday, Democrats nominated Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., as their speaker candidate. And during all three votes, not a single Democrat broke ranks, giving Jeffries a consistent 212 count.

The Democrats were visibly gleeful at the GOP's disarray yesterday, bringing popcorn onto the floor and giving small speeches while casting their Jeffries votes.

But behind the presser podium this morning, they took a somber, serious tone, trying to focus all attention on what they describe as damage to democracy.

"This is a crisis of the Congress. It's a crisis at the hands of the Republican dysfunction," said Rep. Pete Aguilar, the new chair of the House Democratic Caucus. "This is where we are until we have the main organizing principle, which is electing a speaker."

Caucus Vice Chair Ted Lieu of California told reporters that the lack of a speaker was detrimental to the business of governing. The House can't organize committees, hire staff or swear in new members until a speaker is chosen.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to get the necessary support to rise to House Speaker during more than five hours on three ballots. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., speaks at a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday after being nominated as the Democratic choice for speaker during three consecutive votes.

But the Democrats' proposed solution at this point? Asking Republicans to let Jeffries take the gavel, which is, to say the least, quite the long shot.

Aguilar said they're planning to nominate Jeffries again and see where things shake out in a roll-call vote.

Reporters questioned whether the Democrats would consider helping the Republicans should the delay carry on. Democrats could possibly:

  • Keep some members out of the chamber to decrease the majority numbers.
  • Allow Republicans more time to negotiate, rather than push for more votes.
  • Help pass a resolution to change the speaker's election threshold from a majority to a plurality.
  • Vote for McCarthy, even.

Aguilar said no such ideas were on the table: "We understand the options in front of us, but we're not going to engage in any hypotheticals at this point," he said.

He added there's "not a lot of basis in fact" to any reports the Democrats were talking to Republicans about the options. "We haven't had those conversations with our colleagues," he said.

These are the 20 Republicans who voted against McCarthy yesterday

Posted January 4, 2023 at 11:20 AM EST

Nearly two dozen House Republicans voted against Rep. Kevin McCarthy yesterday, derailing not only his quest for speaker but the proceedings of Congress in general.

Nineteen opposed him in the first two ballots, and by the third round, that number was up to 20, all united in favor of Rep. Jim Jordan (who himself supports McCarthy).

Here's the full list:

  • Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.)
  • Rep. Dan Bishop (N.C.)
  • Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.)
  • Rep.-elect Josh Brecheen (Okla.)
  • Rep. Michael Cloud (Texas)
  • Rep.-elect Eli Crane (Ariz.)
  • Rep. Andrew Clyde (Ga.)
  • Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.)
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.)
  • Rep. Bob Good (Va.)
  • Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.)
  • Rep. Andy Harris (Md.)
  • Rep.-elect Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.)
  • Rep. Mary Miller (Ill.)
  • Rep. Ralph Norman (S.C.)
  • Rep.-elect Andy Ogles (Tenn.)
  • Rep. Scott Perry (Pa.)
  • Rep. Matt Rosendale (Mont.)
  • Rep. Chip Roy (Texas)
  • Rep.-elect Keith Self (Texas)

Notably, the vast majority of these defectors were among the 147 Republicans in Congress who voted to overturn the 2020 election results on Jan. 6.

Five of the 20 are representatives-elect who were not in the House at the time, while Rep. Chip Roy of Texas is the only returning member on the list who did not vote against the certification.

Text messages obtained by the Jan. 6 committee show that Roy initially encouraged overturning the 2020 results before warning against it in the lead-up and speaking critically of Trump later that day.

Context

Why is McCarthy seeing such hefty opposition?

Posted January 4, 2023 at 11:03 AM EST

Here's the simple, short answer:

Of those who voted against McCarthy on Tuesday, many said they had two top priorities:

  • New rules on how legislation is considered in the House.
  • New rules on how oversight investigations into the Biden administration will be structured.

Defectors also wanted to change a rule that would allow a group of five members to offer a resolution to remove the speaker — essentially a no-confidence vote, which currently requires the majority of one party to force a vote. After insisting for weeks that such a move would irreparably weaken the speaker's power, McCarthy caved in and agreed to change that rule last week.
➡️ Read more on what the defectors want here.

And here's the longer answer:

This politically fraught moment has been years in the making for McCarthy, a leader who wanted the speaker spot so badly he contorted himself into knots to get it.

NPR's senior political editor Domenico Montanaro writes that Donald Trump has a lot to do with accelerating division in the party.

"The rise of anti-establishment intransigence among a hard-right faction in the GOP can be traced with a straight line back to the Tea Party — and put on steroids by MAGA Trumpism," Montanaro writes.

Throughout his career, McCarthy has tried to cater to both sides.

➡️ Read Montanaro's whole piece here.

A pro-McCarthy Republican blames 'chaos-lovers' but remains optimistic

Posted January 4, 2023 at 10:44 AM EST
Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota speaks on Capitol Hill in Dec. 2020.
Jacquelyn Martin
/
AP
GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota speaks on Capitol Hill in December 2020.

GOP Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota tells Morning Edition that most people want to "get to yes," but blames a small group of individuals "who like the chaos" for holding up the Speaker vote.

"Those small number of chaos lovers ... you really cannot negotiate with them," he adds. "But I'm hopeful there are still 218 members of the Republican conference that understand we can't do a gosh-darn thing until we agree on leadership, and more than 90% of us think there's one guy who's uniquely qualified to lead the group into a really fractious time."

Johnson says there has been "incremental progress inching toward agreement," with some members potentially open to making concessions, and hopes it's a source of comfort that "we're not at total impasse."

So what does he see as the way forward?

NPR's Steve Inskeep points out that Democrats could hypothetically help Republicans by having some of their members not vote, thereby reducing the total needed and making a McCarthy victory more likely. Johnson doesn't want that.

"I know this is a scenario that people bring out from time to time because, of course, it's exactly what would happen in an Aaron Sorkin movie, but it is a really hard way to govern the House," he says, citing partisan divisions and the Republicans' incredibly narrow majority.

So what about a compromise candidate? Johnson doesn't see that panning out either.

"There is no one who is even close to being able to do this job like Kevin McCarthy can do it," he says. "Maybe we get to a point where somebody other than Kevin McCarthy gets elected — I don't think that's going to happen but it's possible. But I'll tell you, the country will be messier and the House will be more chaotic if that's what happens."

Listen to the full conversation here.

ICYMI

Need to catch up? Here's a super simple guide to where things stand

Posted January 4, 2023 at 10:27 AM EST
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) delivers remarks alongside House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the House of Representatives holds their vote for Speaker of the House on the first day of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC. Today members of the 118th Congress will be sworn-in and the House of Representatives will elect a new Speaker of the House. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Anna Moneymaker
/
Getty Images North America
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, delivers remarks alongside House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the House of Representatives holds a vote for speaker of the House on Tuesday.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is facing steep internal opposition in his bid to become speaker of the House of Representatives.

He needs to secure a simple majority (218 votes) to win the seat. After the 2022 midterms, Republicans hold 222 seats.

But despite that narrow majority, McCarthy's failed to secure 218 seats three times yesterday, after roughly 20 Republicans defected from the rest of the GOP's support.

Those back-to-back-to-back votes went like this:

  • Round one: 212 votes for the Democratic candidate Hakeem Jeffries of New York, 203 for McCarthy, 19 for other Republicans.
  • Round two: 212 for Jeffries, 203 for McCarthy, 19 for Ohio Republican Jim Jordan.
  • Round three: 212 for Jeffries, 202 for McCarthy. 20 for Jordan.

Wait, is Jordan a new contender? That's unlikely. The Republican has consistently expressed support for McCarthy's bid, telling reporters yesterday that he didn't want the job.

Here's the key: The House cannot conduct any business, including swearing in new members, until a speaker is chosen. So the Republican representatives are under intense pressure to sort this out quickly as Americans (like us) watch on.

➡️Read more on what happened yesterday.

Live from NPR HQ

Here's what to expect today

Posted January 4, 2023 at 10:04 AM EST
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: Members-elect of the 118th Congress leave the House Chamber after three ballots failed to elect a new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to get enough support to be Speaker during more than five hours of voting. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla
/
Getty Images North America
Members-elect of the 118th Congress leave the House chamber after three ballots failed to elect a new speaker on Tuesday.

With McCarthy's fate hanging in the balance, the House will gavel in formally at noon.

What happens next is an open question: The House may decide to hold another vote straight away, or they could also decide to adjourn to allow for more negotiating behind the scenes.

Lawmakers will be plenty busy until then, with both Democrats and Republicans scheduled to meet throughout the morning.

Republicans, you can probably guess, will continue discussing McCarthy, with many working to convince his detractors (more on them in a second) to sway to his side.

Democrats are holding a closed-door caucus meeting and plan to hold a press conference at 10:45 a.m. ET. They've said they're not going to help the GOP get organized, but you can expect reporters to dig in on that point. Democrats could possibly keep some members outside the chamber to lower the majority threshold.

Buckle up for any combination of events or possibilities. We'll keep you updated in this space.