Kevin McCarthy Goes Down in Flames; House Adjourns Without a Leader

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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For the first time since 1923, an assumed candidate for Speaker of the House has failed to garner enough votes on the first ballot. In fact, Kevin McCarthy failed to gain the support he needed over the course of three different votes, and now the House of Representatives has adjourned for the day with no leader.


A long night of negotiating and internal warfare lies ahead.

Incredibly, McCarthy actually lost another vote by the time the third round came around. Certainly, he’s not building momentum if that was his goal, and there are real questions about where he goes from here. What can he promise the 20 holdouts at this point, especially to peel off 16 of them? I’d assume the answer is that he has to capitulate to their demands (click here to see them).

But would Lauren Boebert, Chip Roy, and the other 18 Republicans even want to take that deal at this point? They’ve won the day and have to feel pretty good about their position.

So where do things go from here? I’m not sure anyone knows. The anti-McCarthy group wants Jim Jordan to be the Speaker, but importantly, he does not want the job. He would probably lose enough votes on the other end of the party to also be stalemated.


Then there’s the idea of Steve Scalise taking the mantle, and while he’d likely have the votes, Scalise is one of McCarthy’s closest allies and would have to betray him in the most public way possible. In the end, you’d probably need someone like Jim Banks to step up and declare.

Regardless, I’m actually starting to see a path for McCarthy to be iced out. He’s not going to quit this soon, though, and he’s pledged to see this thing past 133 ballots (the House record). Will he actually do that or will his base of support collapse?

McCarthy’s rants about deserving the speakership after the first vote failed likely didn’t earn him any new fans. The right thing to do would be to step aside gracefully, promote his friend Scalise, and get down to business. But McCarthy sees this as his birthright, and I have a feeling the embarrassment will have to get much more severe before he thinks about pulling out.


Because the anti-McCarthy group has many more votes than expected (initial expectations were only five hard-no votes), they have actual leverage to play with. As long as Republicans don’t get any bright ideas about a unity candidate and don’t vote to allow a plurality vote, I don’t see any harm in letting this play out. With that said, all GOP members need to make sure this stays an internal fight. There’s too much to be lost by letting things go sideways.


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