Despite some progress, Kevin McCarthy is on track to lose the 12th Speaker’s voice

Republican Kevin McCarthy was on track to lose an historic 12th ballot as Speaker of the House despite convincing several party rebels to change their votes in favor of his candidacy.

The momentum in McCarthy’s favor came as the race for leadership of the lower chamber of Congress remained in limbo for the fourth straight day. It remained unclear whether the Californian congressman could win over the remaining hardliners.

McCarthy has offered several rounds of concessions to his critics, including rule changes that would make it easier to call for a vote of no confidence in a future speaker and promises of prune committee assignments for members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.

That effort appeared to have swayed some of the 20 Republicans who had opposed his speakership in previous rounds, including North Carolina’s Dan Bishop and Florida’s Byron Donalds. The hope for McCarthy and his allies is that improving his numbers on Friday will pressure the rest of the holdouts to back his bid.

But opposition from at least seven members of his own party remained steadfast and defiant – enough to end his chances of winning the House gavel in Friday’s first round.

Bob Good, a Virginia Republican who was among the dissidents, said before the vote that he would support McCarthy “at no time”.

“The whole reality is that he doesn’t have a 218, he won’t have a 218, and the sooner he embraces that reality, the sooner we can move forward as a conference and start debating, reviewing and evaluating. . .[alternative]candidates,” he said.

Good said he would like to see Ohio Republican Jim Jordan as speaker, but suggested that other members suggest Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican and a member of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives, as a possible nominee. “There are members who support him, I think they should propose his name, nominate him and vote for him.”

Republican lawmakers pray on the floor of the House of Representatives before another round of voting
Republican lawmakers pray on the House floor before another round of voting © Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Shutterstock

Though McCarthy has made major concessions in recent days, there remains a significant lack of “confidence” in his willingness to follow through, Good said. “He doesn’t believe in any of the things he agrees to, so he would only do them under duress because he’s desperate.”

The last time it took more than one ballot to elect a Speaker was in 1923, when it took nine ballots. If the standoff is not broken, the trial could continue into the weekend. The House of Representatives is constitutionally required to select a Speaker and cannot move on to legislative matters until someone is presented with the gavel.

The infighting between Republicans has exposed long-simmering tensions in a party grappling with how to proceed after a relatively disappointing performance in November’s midterm elections.

McCarthy is in a difficult position in part because the “red wave” he and others predicted has not materialized and Republicans now control the House by a razor-thin margin.

The deadlock in the House of Representatives has also raised questions about how Congress will function over the next two years and whether McCarthy or any other speaker will be able to get the party’s warring factions to pass legislation.

One looming threat is the possibility of a debt ceiling crisis later this year. Economists have forecast that the US economy could default in the third quarter unless lawmakers agree to raise the federal debt ceiling. Despite some progress, Kevin McCarthy is on track to lose the 12th Speaker’s voice

Adam Bradshaw

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