For the first time since 1923, no candidate for House Speaker won a majority in the chamber’s first vote.
Nineteen Republicans voted against Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) giving him only 203 votes for Speaker. Comparatively, Democratic Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) got 212 votes from Democratic representatives. However, since neither McCarthy nor Jeffries received a majority of votes from the 435-seat House, a second ballot will have to be conducted.
McCarthy served as the House Minority Leader and is presumed to be the most likely candidate to become Speaker since Republicans now control the chamber. He needs at least 218 votes to be voted in. Republicans have 222 House seats. This means that if even just 4 Republican representatives don’t support him, he won’t be voted in.
However, McCarthy has so far been unable to win over far-right candidates who oppose his speakership. Ten Republican representatives voted instead in favor of Rep. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), six voted in favor of Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), one voted for Rep. Jim Banks (Ind.), one voted for Rep. Chip Roy (Texas), and one voted for Rep. Lee Zeldin (N.Y.) even though Zeldin is no longer a Congress member.
It’s entirely likely that McCarthy will still end up as the House speaker. In fact, he has already moved into the speaker’s office. However, to win over the far-right holdouts, he’ll likely need to make concessions to far-right GOP representatives like Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), and others who will want him to pursue far-right demands.
On Monday, an influential conservative organization called The Club for Growth issued a list of demands for the new speaker.
While it didn’t mention McCarthy by name, the group said that GOP representatives should not support any candidate for speaker unless the candidate agrees to pursue a constitutional amendment limiting House members to three terms and Senate members to two. The group also wanted the next speaker to guarantee that all party members to be able to bring their legislative amendments to a floor vote and to guarantee that all Republican Super political action committees (Super PACs) won’t campaign against a Republican incumbent.
On Sunday, McCarthy said he would agree to various new rules meant to win over his far-right colleagues. These rules include a way for them to easily vote him out of the Speaker seat and a promise to ensure that key House committees will “more closely reflect the ideological makeup of our conference” — a line which possibly means ensuring greater representation for far-fight hardliners.
“I think what he’s trying to do is the bare minimum that he needs to try and get to where he can get the votes. And that’s not indicative of somebody that really wants to embrace new ideas, reject the status quo and unify all members in the conference,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said, according to The Hill.
Subsequent votes for the House Speaker will happen imminently.