There are rumbles of a deal after 3 days of unsuccessful voting for House speaker

Published January 5, 2023 at 10:13 AM EST
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., votes for himself in the 11th round of voting for speaker in the House chamber on Thursday night.
Andrew Harnik
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., votes for himself in the 11th round of voting for speaker in the House chamber on Thursday night.

After three days and 11 votes, the House is still without a leader. But Thursday night some lawmakers indicated a deal was in the works that could end the stalemate. Follow Friday's actions at this link.

Day 3 of a search for a speaker ends after 5 more rounds of unsuccessful voting

Posted January 5, 2023 at 8:13 PM EST

The House of Representatives voted to call it a wash after five unsuccessful rounds of voting on Day 3 of balloting for a speaker.

After ballot 11 failed to elect a leader, Republican Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana made a motion to adjourn until noon Friday. House members more or less voted along party lines to adjourn, with 219 Republicans voting to break until tomorrow, while 212 Democrats and a lone Republican urged to continue, and two Republicans not voting at all.

Tomorrow's 12th round of balloting will make this vote a tie for fifth-longest vote for a speaker, alongside the 17th Congress which took 12 ballots to elect a leader in 1821.

Rumbles of a possible deal grow louder

Posted January 5, 2023 at 7:54 PM EST

As the race for the speakership approaches a 12th ballot, there are rumblings of a possible agreement framework between McCarthy and some of his holdouts.

Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina told reporters there is an a framework on paper, but that “this is Round 1” and there were still “a ways to go.” He said the framework included House rules changes that conservatives had been asking for, including a 72 hour period to read bills before voting.

Other holdouts were more cagey. Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland said he didn’t know about any deal, while Rep. Andy Ogles of Tennessee wouldn’t answer if there was an agreement on paper.

McCarthy ally Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina said he believed it would be “a good evening” and said several holdouts were negotiating in good faith. McHenry acknowledged any deal would need assurances and be socialized among the broader GOP conference.

He described the deal as "the main things we are talking about are a conservative agenda around spending and the nature of our Republican majority." He said it's a pledge on action on how they operate to achieve their agenda.

Another ally, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, told reporters he thinks they are close to a deal — "you can just sense it." Asked if it could come together tonight, Jordan said, "I hope so. I do, I really do."

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House speaker stalemate continues with no winner in 11th ballot

Posted January 5, 2023 at 7:53 PM EST

Frustration remains apparent on the House floor as members fail to elect a leader for the 11th time in three days.

The votes were more or less the same as recent ballots:

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., 212
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., 200
  • Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., 12
  • Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., 7
  • Former President Donald Trump, 1
  • One Republican member voted "present"

A 12th round of voting could take place tonight, or a motion to adjourn—accompanied by a majority vote—could send House members home until Friday.


The House immediately rolled into ballot No. 11

Posted January 5, 2023 at 7:36 PM EST

Members of the House of Representatives steamrolled right into ballot No.11 Thursday evening, tying for the sixth-longest ballot for House speaker in U.S. history, set by the 26th Congress in 1839. We are awaiting the final tally of this round.


Why did McCarthy lose a vote in rounds 9 and10?

Posted January 5, 2023 at 7:13 PM EST

Those tuned into the House vote for a new speaker may have realized that California Rep. Kevin McCarthy lost a vote in the ninth and 10th ballots.

According to a spokesman for Rep. Ken Buck, the Colorado Republican returned home this afternoon for "a planned non-emergency medical procedure." Buck hopes to return to Washington, D.C., "as soon as possible and get back to work for the American people."

The official count from ballot 10 is:

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., 212
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., 200
  • Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., 13
  • Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., 7
  • One Republican member voted "present"

The only shift between rounds nine and 10 are that four Republicans — Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Rep. Elijah Crane of Arizona, Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, and Rep. Matthew Rosendale of Montana — changed their vote from Donalds to Hern.


The House speaker stalemate has a wide-ranging impact

Posted January 5, 2023 at 6:42 PM EST

As Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., continues to negotiate with his colleagues, other lawmakers are unable to do their jobs. No other business can be conducted in the House until a speaker is elected. Nebraska Republican Rep. Don Bacon, says he lost his security clearance because he hasn’t been sworn in, reports NPR's Deirdre Walsh on All Things Considered.

As a result, he was unable to meet with Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley to discuss China.

Additionally, Walsh reports, at some point next week, staff may not receive a paycheck because payrolls can't be approved. And some lawmakers are worried about basic functions like calls for help for federal assistance.

Hear more about how the stalled vote in the House is impacting the government here.

Round 10 vote for House speaker vote shows little change

Posted January 5, 2023 at 6:14 PM EST

Not much has changed in the House's 10th round of voting to elect a leader, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy coming up short on the third day of voting.

The unofficial counts are:

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., 212
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., 200
  • Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., 13
  • Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., 7
  • One Republican member voted "present"

McCarthy's latest nomination came from Arizona's Juan Ciscomani

Posted January 5, 2023 at 5:53 PM EST
Rep.-elect Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., hugs Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., after nominating him in the House chamber as the House meets for the third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.
Alex Brandon/AP
Rep.-elect Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., hugs Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., after nominating him in the House chamber as the House meets for the third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023.

McCarthy’s nomination for round 10 came from Arizona Republican Rep.-elect Juan Ciscomani.

“The American dream is a dream worth fighting for, and know in my hearts of heart that Kevin McCarthy is the man to lead us as we work to fulfill that dream for everyone in every state and in every district,” Ciscomani said on the House floor Thursday.

On the campaign trail he promised Arizona residents in Congressional District 6 — which encompasses parts of Maricopa County —
that he would fight for their version of the American dream. According to his campaign website, Ciscomani and his wife Laura are raising their family where he grew up in; he said his home district and state are hurting from Democratic policies implemented by President Biden and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Cali.

He promised his constituents that he would make their voices heard in Washington and fight to secure America’s southern border to keep communities safe. Ciscomani also swore to help reel in spending while lowering taxes on families and small businesses.

Before making his own move into politics, Ciscomani spent seven years as the senior adviser to Arizona Gov. Doug Doucey. He also served as vice chair of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, a nonprofit that works across international lines to achieve shared goals.


House immediately jumped into a 10th round of voting

Posted January 5, 2023 at 4:56 PM EST

Almost immediately after the House clerk announced the results of latest round of voting, Republicans nominated Rep. Kevin McCarthy once again, kicking off ballot No. 10.

The last time electing a House speaker went 10 rounds or more was in 1859, which took 44 ballots over two months.

The last time there were this many ballot rounds, here's what was happening in the world

Posted January 5, 2023 at 4:33 PM EST

The House of Representatives just finished its ninth unsuccessful vote for a new speaker, the first time in 163 years. The last time it took 10 rounds or more, Charles Darwin had just published his findings on the theory of evolution.

In December 1859, the 36thCongress began its journey of electing speaker of the House, which took 44 ballots over two months. Finally, in February 1860, the chamber elected a compromise candidate, Rep. William Pennington, R-N.J.

Here are some other notable moments in history from around that time:

  • There were only 33 states in the union at the time, and what are now known as Colorado, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii were yet to be declared U.S. territories.
  • The U.S. Civil War erupted approximately one year and two months after the 36th Congress finally elected a speaker. Part of reason it took so long to choose a leader was the issue of slavery divided the House and the nation, ultimately leading to the secession of states that formed the Confederate States of America.
  • Just weeks before the House began voting for its speaker, Naturalist Charles Darwin published his book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, which has long been considered the foundation of evolutionary biology.
  • Riders for the Pony Express, an 1,800-mile trail connecting St. Joseph, Mo., to Sacramento, Calif., had yet to make their first journey. From April 1860 to October 1861, riders delivered letters between the American East and West, until a telegraph line stretching from San Francisco to New York City made the Pony Express obsolete.
  • On Aug. 27, 1859, the first commercial oil well was drilled in Titusville, Pa. The first person to strike black gold in America was Edwin Drake, who developed a new method of drilling and did so along the shores of Oil Creek outside of Titusville. It’s estimated he produced 20 to 40 barrels of oil per day from his well until it went dry in 1876.

Here's what was said in the latest round of House speaker nominations

Posted January 5, 2023 at 4:09 PM EST

Democrats and Republicans continued to attack one another in their nominations for House speaker before moving on to a ninth round of voting.

Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas called on his fellow Republicans to stop fighting with one another and vote for California Rep. Kevin McCarthy because he has been their leader for the past four years.

He said that the American people are depending on the Republicans to implement change and hold politicians accountable.

“Let’s get to work and let’s elect Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House,” he told members of the House.

Hakeem Jeffries was nominated again, this time by Rep. Ted Lieu of California, who said, “Democrats stand united and ready to get to work on behalf of the American people under the leadership of Hakeem Jeffries.”

In his nomination of Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, Republican Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana said the American people think politics is routinely conducted in the fashion seen over the past three days, with lawmakers fighting for their best interests. Instead, he told his fellow members, representatives make a number of deals every day without objection to pass bills.

“Last summer we began to negotiate, a group of us in good faith, a list of changes, amendments to the rules of this body, not to empower ourselves, not to bring personal benefit to ourselves, but to empower … everyone in this chamber equally.”

He said the proposed rule changes to Congress are not “radical deviations from the norm," but a restoration of rules that will allow the government to function properly.

Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado said McCarthy doesn’t have enough votes to get the speaker position.

“It is not happening,” she told the House. “And as it’s been said, we need to get to a point where we start evaluating what life after Kevin McCarthy looks like.”

She said America is tired of talk and wants to see results, which comes from intense debate like the House has experienced over the last three days.

She nominated Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma to deliver on those results.


House proceeding to ninth speaker's vote

Posted January 5, 2023 at 3:30 PM EST

The House has proceeded to a ninth vote for speaker.

This is the third vote of the day. On the last vote — the eight total so far — 21 Republicans are still against McCarthy, putting him below the majority threshold he needs to be elected. Seventeen of those votes were for Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., and Rep-elect Josh Brecheen, R-Okla., back Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla.

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Pelosi says GOP is on their own

Posted January 5, 2023 at 3:21 PM EST
Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is pictured at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is pictured at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Just before Kevin McCarthy lost for the eighth time in the race for House speaker, former Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there was no chance the Democrats would switch their vote to help McCarthy win and allow the chamber to move forward.

“I think what you are seeing is an incredibly shrinking speakership in terms of all the deals that are being made, and that is most unfortunate,” Pelosi told reporters. “They have to elect a leader from their ranks. We can help on policy. That's our responsibility to find common ground on policy and even on some of that process ... but they have to select their leader first.”

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democratic Whip Katherine Clark and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar released a statement, agreeing that Democrats will stay united and are leaving the Republicans to elect their own leader.

Pelosi said she did wish that McCarthy had been elected on the first vote so that the chamber could move forward with other processes. The House can't swear in members (meaning 77 freshman lawmakers are still technically "representatives-elect"), establish internal rules, create committee assignments or consider legislation until a candidate reaches a majority of votes.

“People should be seeing what the difference public policy makes in their lives instead of their being subjected to what they call insanity, doing the same thing over and over again with no change,” she said.


Preliminary vote count shows 8th loss for McCarthy

Posted January 5, 2023 at 3:10 PM EST

Members of the House have finished voting but an official count has yet to be announced. The preliminary results show no clear winner, which means a ninth round of voting will take place.

Here's the tally so far:

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., 212
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., 201
  • Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., 17
  • Three Republican members voted "other"
  • One Republican member voted "present"

What's the deal with voting 'present'?

Posted January 5, 2023 at 2:59 PM EST

One standout move during otherwise identical votes comes from Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., who's been critical of McCarthy's attitude toward the defectors.

After saying McCarthy's name in the first three votes, Spartz has been voting "present," including rounds so far today.

Though it may seem like a slight against McCarthy — and, symbolically, it sure is — voting "present" could actually be a boost to the embattled California Republican.

That's because "present" votes lower the overall threshold needed to reach a majority.

Here's the math: There's one open seat due to the death of Democrat Donald McEachin. So if all the 434 other members are in the chamber, a candidate would need 218 votes to become speaker, which is a high number for McCarthy when there are only 222 Republicans in the chamber and 20 of them are defecting.

But when Spartz voted "present," the total number of voting members became 433, making the threshold for reaching a majority 217.

If five members voted "present," the majority would become 215. If six voted "present," the majority would become 214, and so on and so forth.

But here's the rub for Republicans: If 10 members voted "present," the majority would become 212 — and that's enough for Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democrat's candidate, to become the speaker.

And Democrats could always mess with the numbers by voting "present," too.

So McCarthy's best course of action is still flipping his detractors but he could have less to flip if he convinced a few of them to at least vote "present."

A previous version of this post said that Donald McEachin was a Republican. In fact, he was a Democrat.

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Lauren Boebert, a McCarthy defector, votes for Kevin Hern instead of Byron Donalds

Posted January 5, 2023 at 2:35 PM EST

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, a conservative firebrand, has been vocally critical of McCarthy for not backing an amendment that would allow any single representative to bring a motion to vacate the speaker.

During the eighth round of voting, Boebert cast her speaker ballot for a name that hasn't been raised in the chamber yet: Kevin Hern, a Republican from Oklahoma.

She described Hern as a "businessman from humble beginnings" and a "true consensus candidate," as a quiet murmur in the chamber rose into a roar of side conversations.

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Once again, McCarthy appears to lose the vote for speaker

Posted January 5, 2023 at 2:25 PM EST

Byron Donalds, R-Fla., has more than six votes, which is enough to prevent Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., from reaching the 218 majority threshold — if, as expected, all Democrats vote for Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., all 434 members vote and less than a handful vote "present."

Stay tuned for a final tally.

Byron Donalds gets his fifth nomination

Posted January 5, 2023 at 2:08 PM EST

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., delivered a fifth nomination for Byron Donalds, R-Fla.

In his nomination speech, Biggs offered an alternative take on the common "GOP in chaos" narrative that's taken root this week.

"It's not dysfunction. And it's not imperiling," Biggs said. "It's an exchange of ideas, an expression of support for people you want to be your leader in the next Congress."

He added: "I think it's incredibly healthy, actually, for the American people to see we're on the floor. Something my colleagues on the other side of the aisle rarely like to be."

Hakeem Jeffries' nominator says he will stand with the American people

Posted January 5, 2023 at 2:06 PM EST
Katherine Clark, D-Mass., nominated Hakeem Jeffries for speaker, his eighth nomination from Democrats.
Mandel Ngan
AFP via Getty Images
Katherine Clark, D-Mass., nominated Hakeem Jeffries for speaker, his eighth nomination from Democrats.

Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the minority whip, began her nomination of Rep. Hakeem Jeffries by repeating a number — 212 — seven times.

"Two hundred and twelve House Democrats stand united behind our leader because Hakeem Jeffries stands united for the American people," she said.

"The historic dysfunction that we are seeing, this intraparty fight that the American people have been drawn into, is imperiling our national security. It will imperil the ability of this government to deliver basic services. It is imperiling our jobs and our responsibility to serve our constituents."

Clark also called it "entirely predictable," accusing the Republican Party of failing to convene Congress today and failing to deliver votes for the American people for years.

She listed efforts that Republicans had opposed, including pandemic support for schools, small businesses and vaccines; capping insulin costs for seniors; gun control; reproductive freedoms; pay equity; universal child care and paid family leave; LGBTQ protections; climate change measures; support for veterans; and fighting for democracy after Jan. 6.

"They said no," she said after every example and was joined in by a chorus of voices in the last few instances.

"House Democrats will stand together; we will stand with the American people," she concluded. "It is our job, and our responsibility, to elect a speaker who stands with them, and with great pride, I nominate Hakeem Jeffries."

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The House moves to yet another vote

Posted January 5, 2023 at 1:56 PM EST

After some back-and-forth in the media about whether Congress would adjourn for the day, Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., nominated McCarthy once again for speaker, meaning an eighth vote is imminent.

In his nomination speech, Mast spoke of armed service members, saying that McCarthy was the right choice for protecting what Americans have sacrificed for.

"And I couldn't be more proud to stand here today and vouch for you, my friend," Mast said.

Mast said McCarthy was a different leader than former Republican Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"He's different. That's why the process is where it is today," Mast said.

Stay tuned for the Democratic nomination.


Scott Perry, a key McCarthy defector, barely got his vote in

Posted January 5, 2023 at 1:46 PM EST

In a move that caused a bit of a stir in the chambers, Rep. Scott Perry, R -Pa., was absent for both the initial vote and the follow-up round.

But he rushed into the chamber at the last second, getting the clerk's attention to register a vote for Donalds.

Though the vote didn't affect the overall result, it would've been a big deal, symbolically, if Perry hadn't cast it.

Perry is chairman of the GOP's Freedom Caucus, of which 19 of the 21 non-McCarthy voters are also members. As early as late November, Perry was pushing McCarthy to make rules changes that gave more power to members and weaken the speakership. And he's remained one of McCarthy's loudest critics.

With no one winning a majority, an eighth round of voting begins

Posted January 5, 2023 at 1:44 PM EST

The House clerk has confirmed that Jeffries received 212 votes, McCarthy received 201 and Donalds received 19.

Former President Donald Trump got one — the announcement was met with some loud boos — and one member voted present.

With no one winning a majority, a speaker has not been elected.

And now an eighth round of voting begins.

Here's the preliminary vote tally

Posted January 5, 2023 at 1:23 PM EST

Lawmakers at the House appear to have finished casting their votes, after the clerk reached the end of the alphabetical roll call and called on those who had not responded the first time.

We're still waiting for the official count to be gaveled in, but here's the tally so far:

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., 212
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., 201
  • Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., 19
  • One Republican member voted "present"
  • One Republican member voted "other"

Those are almost exactly in line with the results of the three ballots cast yesterday.
Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana again voted "present," and Rep. Matt Gaetz switched his vote from Donalds to former President Donald Trump.

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McCarthy laughed at the idea that he has made concessions

Posted January 5, 2023 at 1:00 PM EST

McCarthy has been in meetings with GOP members from both sides of the faction this morning, according to NPR reporters on the hill.

Coming out of one meeting he laughed at the suggestion he's making "concessions" to appease the 20 Republicans who keep voting against him.

“I think we’re having good discussions and I think everybody wants to find a solution," he said. "The good thing about it is we work this all out at the beginning so the rest of the Congress will be very productive for the American public."

But will he get the votes he needs to actually get to the productivity phase?

“I don’t pick the day," he said. "I think every one of the members I’ve talked to have been very productive."

He also said he didn't plan to file a new rules package, a sign that the talks are likely stalled for now.

Rep. Matt Gaetz votes for Donald Trump

Posted January 5, 2023 at 12:54 PM EST

There is a pattern to these votes, with the clerk calling on lawmakers in alphabetical order and each member shouting back their vote: McCarthy, Jeffries or Donalds (with some creative additions — one prompted laughter by responding first that he was present).

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz broke that pattern when, during his turn, he stood up to vote for "Donald John Trump." That counts toward the "others" category. The speaker does not need to be a member of the House.

There were some audible murmurs from the crowd as he sat back down next to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who could be seen laughing. She later cast her vote for McCarthy, as she has consistently.

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McCarthy appears to suffer his seventh defeat for speakership

Posted January 5, 2023 at 12:50 PM EST

The Republican from Florida, Byron Donalds, has received nine votes so far, which is more than enough to prevent McCarthy from reaching the majority threshold if all members vote and all Democrats stick with their nominee, Jeffries.

At a quorum earlier, only 311 members were counted as present, but there's a lot of movement in and out of the room as this vote unfolds, as has been the case with the last few votes.

The seventh vote is officially underway

Posted January 5, 2023 at 12:40 PM EST

House members are now voting for their preferred nominee by voice vote.

There are over 300 members in the room, so it could take some time — though because of the slim margin, the number of votes Donalds gets in the next few minutes could make McCarthy's odds clear.

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Republican Byron Donalds gets his fourth nomination

Posted January 5, 2023 at 12:38 PM EST
Rep.-elect Dan Bishop nominates Rep. Byron Donalds on Thursday.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
Rep.-elect Dan Bishop nominates Rep. Byron Donalds on Thursday.

Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., again nominated Byron Donalds, R-Fla., for the speakership. Donalds received three nominations yesterday. Today's nomination solidifies his status as the defectors' apparent favorite.

"Yesterday, we could have nominated the first Black speaker of the House," Bishop said in an inflection point that backfired as Democrats rose on their feet, chanting "Hakeem, Hakeem," in reference to their own nominee.

But Bishop quickly recovered, gaining a standing ovation from his Republican colleagues after saying that Donalds should not be viewed as a pawn.

"I know Byron. He's not a prop. He's a man of personal conviction. He arrived at his convictions through genuine life experience," Bishop said. "This is a dynamic process. All of the decision on this floor are a result of the coming together of minds, one way or another."

"This is the people's business. We will resolve the people's business," Bishop added.

Democrats nominate Hakeem Jeffries again, focusing on his voting rights record

Posted January 5, 2023 at 12:32 PM EST

Rep. Pete Aguilar, a Democrat from California, stood up to nominate House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, as he has during every vote this week.

But he couldn't resist disputing a point made before him by Rep. John James, R-Mich., who described the vote to adjourn yesterday's proceedings as a small but satisfying victory.

"I speak on behalf of the Democratic caucus when I say that there is no victory in adjourning without doing the business of the people," Aguilar said, prompting a lengthy round of applause from some in the room.

He went on to praise Jeffries as "a champion of protecting and expanding the right to vote," noting that states have passed dozens of restrictive voting laws in recent years.

"As we begin a new Congress, we need a leader who believes in strengthening democracy, who understands that to cast a vote is a sacred responsibility that should be afforded to the many, not the privileged or the select few," he said.

Aguilar concluded by affirming his party's support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and nominating Jeffries.

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McCarthy gets a seventh nomination

Posted January 5, 2023 at 12:26 PM EST

The newly elected John James, R-Mich., did the honors, delivering a relatively lengthy speech, listing the conservative policy issues at stake in this stalemate.

"The American people have told us by putting a Republican majority here that they want Republicans to lead and they don't want a government that embarrasses them," he said. "We are failing on both fronts."

James won a brief standing ovation from the GOP for referencing the Republicans' "small victory" yesterday in getting an adjournment.

"Didn't it feel good?" he said, as McCarthy smiled beside him. Some of the defectors, including yesterday's nominee Byron Donalds, could be seen holding side conversations on the chamber's sidelines.

Proceedings begin with a call for lawmakers to respect order and decorum

Posted January 5, 2023 at 12:16 PM EST

Before nominations and voting could begin, House Clerk Cheryl Johnson took a moment to remind those in the room that she has the "responsibility to reserve order and decorum in the chamber."

"To that end, the chair would like to remind members-elect of the following: Members-elect should address any remarks through the chair and not to other members-elect in the second person. Members-elect should refrain from engaging in personalities toward other members-elect. The chair appreciates the cooperation of members-elect in respecting and upholding order in the House."

Her remarks were met with a massive round of applause.

The House is back in session

Posted January 5, 2023 at 12:07 PM EST

Day 3 of speaker elections officially began just after noon, as lawmakers filed into the chamber and the House clerk gaveled in.

House Chaplain Margaret Kibben began the proceedings with a prayer, in which she asked God to "quiet the cacophony of counsel and still the storms of dissent, that each of us would be able to hear you speak your word to us."

"Humble our hearts, that nothing we argue for or act upon would be out of selfish ambition or conceit," she added. "But in humility, may we empty ourselves in our service to you and to this nation."

The House can't do business without a speaker. These are some possible consequences

Posted January 5, 2023 at 11:57 AM EST
The Capitol as seen on Thursday morning.
Nathan Howard
Getty Images
The Capitol as seen on Thursday morning.

The ongoing stalemate doesn't just have implications for frustrated lawmakers and C-SPAN viewers: The House of Representatives can't conduct any of its business until it elects a speaker.

That means it can't swear in members (meaning 77 freshman lawmakers are still technically "representatives-elect"), establish internal rules, create committee assignments or consider legislation.

House members on both sides of the aisle have expressed frustration about the holdup getting in the way of their work. And now, some Republicans on McCarthy's side are saying the delay may have implications for national security.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. said at a news conference on Wednesday that he was denied entry into a meeting with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because he doesn't yet have the necessary clearance.

The incoming chairs of the foreign affairs, armed services and permanent select committees said in a joint statement on Thursday that McCarthy's agenda includes countering China, investigating the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and holding the Biden administration accountable.

"The Biden administration is going unchecked and there is no oversight of the White House, State Department, Department of Defense, or the intelligence community," they said. "We cannot let personal politics place the safety and security of the United States at risk.”

Incoming House Oversight Committee chair James Comer has sought to assuage such concerns, saying "one or two days isn’t going to be the end of the world," according to CNN.

Still, it's one of many reasons most lawmakers are hoping to select a speaker soon.

Another: As Politico reported, if they are unable able to approve a House Rules package by the end of the day on Jan. 13, committees won't be able to pay staff. Nor will committees be able to process student loan payments for staff members, potentially creating a break in service that could affect their retirement and eligibility for loan forgiveness.

Without a speaker, Sen. Patty Murray is second in the line of succession

Posted January 5, 2023 at 11:36 AM EST

While one chamber may be stalled, the Senate is still moving forward this week, starting by swearing in new members.

In a bit of a weird twist, that means one senator, in particular, has suddenly found herself a few steps closer to power.

Without a speaker, the line of presidential succession is shorter. Should both the president and the vice president be unable to serve, control of the executive branch would fall to the senate pro tempore.

That's Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington.

Murray, the first woman to serve as pro tempore, has been fairly quiet on the House standoff so far. But you have to wonder if she's skipping the popcorn and watching the proceedings a little more closely with that responsibility on her shoulders.

A GOP pollster and friend of McCarthy says the next 48 hours are critical

Posted January 5, 2023 at 11:20 AM EST
GOP pollster and communications strategist Frank Luntz spoke with "Morning Edition" before Thursday's proceedings.
Patrick T. Fallon
AFP via Getty Images
GOP pollster and communications strategist Frank Luntz spoke with Morning Edition before Thursday's proceedings.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz, a communications strategist and longtime friend of Kevin McCarthy, told Morning Edition on Thursday that he's optimistic about McCarthy's odds of cinching the speaker vote.

"I've known him for almost three decades, and everyone who knows him — everyone — remarks that he's one of the nicest people they've ever met, that he's kind, that he listens and learns, that he knows how to lead," Luntz says. "But really, what matters most right now in Washington is patience and persistence."

He says the speaker vote — however prolonged or dramatic it appears — is important for democracy and the functioning of government. But, as a pollster, he says he respects those who are trying to change the system (even though he disagrees with their approach).

"They've been frustrated, they feel like their voice isn't heard, even though they're elected to Congress," he says. "The key now is to find a consensus within the Republican Party ... there are many different points of view, and that makes it a little harder to govern. But in the end, that's what democracy's all about."

He says he believes the lawmakers who have voted against McCarthy are upset with him "when they should be upset with the Democratic leadership and Joe Biden ... and I believe over the last 24 hours they realize it too."

Luntz says it's important for people to come together now, as what happens over the next 48 hours will determine not just the future of the Republican Party in the House, but the functionality of Congress moving forward.

Listen to his full conversation with A Martinez.

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Will the Democrats lend a hand? Don't count on it

Posted January 5, 2023 at 11:01 AM EST
US Democratic Representatives Hakeem Jeffries and Katherine Clark speak during a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday.
Mandel Ngan
AFP via Getty Images
Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries and Katherine Clark speak during a press conference at the Capitol on Thursday.

As the standstill slides into Day 3, Democrats have remained strictly unified behind Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the party leader they've consistently nominated for speaker.

President Biden yesterday called the stalemate "embarrassing" for the country and party leaders have stressed their frustration at not being able to start policy work.

"House Democrats are ready, willing and able to get to work on behalf of the American people," Jeffries said at a Thursday press conference. "But we need a willing partner on the other side of the aisle."

In a new talking point, Democrats are framing the Republican disarray as dangerous for national security. Without the ability to pass legislation or get daily security briefings, the door is open to bad actors or natural disasters, they say.

"It is just a matter of luck at this point that there is not something we've missed because of this profound dysfunction," said Democrat Katherine Clark of Massachusetts. "We have to look at this for the outrage and danger that it is. This is more than some internal squabbling.

But the party has also been reveling in the GOP's historic turmoil, referring to Thursday morning as "Groundhog Day."

On Tuesday, some Democrats brought popcorn into the chamber. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi was spotted reading a New Yorker article titled "What Kevin McCarthy Will Do to Gain Power" during Wednesday's vote. And, above all else, Democrats are saying they won't entertain any ideas of making it easier for McCarthy to get elected.

Democrats could lower the majority votes needed by keeping some Democrats out of the chamber, adjourning sessions to give Republicans more negotiating time or passing a resolution to change the threshold to a plurality.

But they say they're more likely to wait.

"At the end of the day, all we are asking Republicans to do is to figure out a way for themselves to organize so that Congress can get together and do the business of the American people," Jeffries said.


McCarthy did win one vote — to adjourn

Posted January 5, 2023 at 10:39 AM EST

McCarthy told reporters twice yesterday that he thought it would be better for Republicans to privately negotiate than continue voting.

That didn't stop the rest of the chamber from pushing to vote, not just once but three times.

After a dinner break adjournment, the House came back into session only for Republicans to raise another motion to adjourn. That prompted plenty of yelling, mostly from Democrats, who've been soaking up the GOP's disarray.

The yelling picked up again, even louder, with some theatrical booing, when the clerk read the final tally on the motion (216 - 214). Only four Republicans voted against the motion to adjourn. Two members of each party were absent, and Democrats were hoping the clerk would wait for someone else to enter the chamber and prolong the showdown.

McCarthy, however, was visibly thrilled.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reacts during a vote to adjourn following a day of votes for the new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol on January 4, 2023.
Win McNamee
Getty Images
Kevin McCarthy celebrates Wednesday during a vote to adjourn following a day of votes for the new speaker of the House.

McCarthy says he's making 'progress' as negotiations continue

Posted January 5, 2023 at 10:15 AM EST
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 05: Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) enters the Capitol on January 5, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives will continue to try and elect the next Speaker after McCarthy failed to earn more than 218 votes on six ballots over two days, the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)
Nathan Howard
Getty Images
McCarthy arrives at the Capitol on Thursday morning ahead of what's expected to be another long day of speaker talks and voting.

It appeared early yesterday that McCarthy's support was slipping — one fellow Republican switched her vote from his name to "present" — but by the time the House adjourned, McCarthy was still broadcasting optimism.

“No deal yet,” McCarthy told reporters late Wednesday. “But a lot of progress.”

As a sign of continuing negotiations, a McCarthy-aligned campaign group, the Conservative Leadership Fund, offered a new concession, saying it would no longer spend money on open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts, reports the Associated Press.

Pennsylvania Republican Scott Perry, one of McCarthy's detractors, also said the latest round of talks was “productive," while another, Texas Republican Chip Roy, said he was "open to whatever will give me the power to defend my constituents against this godforsaken city."

But McCarthy may be facing a lost cause with some of his loudest critics.

“I'm ready to vote all night, all week, all month and never for that person,” said Florida Republican Matt Gaetz.


What do the 21 Republican defectors want?

Posted January 5, 2023 at 10:05 AM EST
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 04: Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz (R-FL) talks to fellow members-elect during the second day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 04, 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 Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Anna Moneymaker
Getty Images
Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who has consistently voted against Kevin McCarthy, talks to fellow members-elect during the second day of voting for speaker of the House on Wednesday.

The holdouts' demands boil down to three things:

  1. Less government spending.
  2. More power for them and less power for the speaker.
  3. Mistrust and personality differences.

And those 21 hard-right Republicans fall into two rough camps.
Some have made clear they want further concessions.

Last week, Kevin McCarthy agreed to the faction's proposal for a five-person threshold to force a vote to remove the speaker. But he wouldn't accept other demands, like more restrictions on members earmarking funds on unrelated bills for their own projects, or committing to bring a bill to the floor to impose term limits.

A handful of others appear to be immovable.

The core of this group are anti-establishment, ideologic skeptics of government. They want Washington to be smaller, do less and spend less. They take a hard line on immigration. Most were endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and many are election deniers, but even Trump's influence is only going so far in this fight.

➡️ Read a full list of the defectors and their demands from NPR's senior political editor, Domenico Montanaro.


Just tuning in to the drama? Let's get you up to speed

Posted January 5, 2023 at 9:57 AM EST
House Republicans, including leader Kevin McCarthy, gather to negotiate in Republican Whip Tom Emmer's office at the Capitol on Wednesday evening.
Kevin Dietsch
Getty Images
House Republicans, including leader Kevin McCarthy, gather to negotiate in Republican Whip Tom Emmer's office at the Capitol on Wednesday evening.

The stakes: It's Day 3 of a new Congress, and the U.S. House of Representatives is still without a speaker. Until one is elected, the House can't really do anything — it can't even organize committees or swear in new members.

The match: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is still the top contender for the job. But he needs a simple majority in the chamber (that's 218 votes, if all representatives are present), and his own party has only a slim majority (222 seats). So it's a huge hurdle that 21 rebel Republicans keep voting for other candidates. (We'll give you some more context on this in a second.)

The setting: After a narrow 216-214 vote, the House agreed to adjourn last night instead of starting a seventh tally. It was the first time in two days that nearly all House Republicans were on the same page.

The scene: The House will meet again today at noon ET. They'll have the option to adjourn immediately for further negotiations or keep voting. The party, reportedly, has been buzzing around in last-minute deal-making meetings since then, but it's not clear whether McCarthy or his allies are making progress.