House Republicans will open the second day of the new Congress much like the first — with establishment leader Kevin McCarthy battling with conservatives over who should be House speaker.
McCarthy continues to run despite losing in multiple rounds of voting that threw the new GOP majority into chaos.
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Some of cable news’ most popular stars — Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and the co-hosts of “Fox & Friends” — have clashed from opposite sides of the argument.
“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade said hold-out Republicans from the America First caucus “look like idiots in front of the country.”
“Bob Good is upset, reportedly, because Bob Good wasn’t endorsed by Kevin McCarthy,” Kilmeade said, despite McCarthy helping to finance Good’s campaign.
“So for this guy to be angry, ‘Well, he didn’t call me right away after I won’ – so is this personal? You should not take this job if it’s about your ego and your own personal agenda,” Kilmeade emphasized. “The whole thing should be service for the country, and the subset is your party.”
“Please explain to me how this helps your party,” he said. “You look like idiots in front of the country.”
“It was a disaster for the Republicans,” fellow co-host Steve Doocy later added. “A simple disaster.”
Take a look —
“No Speaker!” Fox & Friends declares “a disaster for the Republicans”. (Video: Fox News) pic.twitter.com/YL1LpiZTYP
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) January 4, 2023
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson shot back with his own opinion Tuesday night, saying a “little chaotic” democracy is preferable to the Democratic Party’s “oligarchy.”
McCarthy “badly wants to be speaker. In fact, he wants that job more than anything else in his life and he was going to get it. But then a group of 20 Republican members stopped him,” Carlson said.
“Now they stopped him because they decided that Kevin McCarthy is not conservative enough to represent a party that’s just taking back the House from Nancy Pelosi,” he said. “And they are definitely right about that.”
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Carlson said that if McCarthy wants to be speaker, he needs to give real concessions to the America First caucus, “not more airy promises, which he specializes in.”
It was the first time in 100 years that a nominee for House speaker could not take the gavel on the first vote.
But McCarthy appeared undeterred on Wednesday. Instead, he vowed to fight to the finish, encouraged, he said, by former President Donald Trump to end the disarray and pull the Republican Party together.
Early Wednesday, Trump publicly urged Republicans to vote for McCarthy: “CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” he wrote on his Trusth Social website. He added: “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT.”
The House will try again on Wednesday after Tuesday’s stalemate essentially forced all other business to a standstill, waiting on Republicans to elect a speaker.
“Today, is that the day I wanted to have? No,” McCarthy told reporters late Tuesday at the Capitol after a series of closed-door meetings. Asked if he would drop out, McCarthy said, “It’s not going to happen.”
Without a speaker, the House cannot fully form — swearing in its members, naming its committee chairmen, engaging in floor proceedings and launching investigations of the Biden administration. Lawmakers’ families had waited around, as what’s normally a festive day descended into chaos, with kids playing in the aisles or squirming in parents’ arms.
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It typically takes a majority of the House to become speaker, 218 votes — though the threshold can drop if members are absent or merely vote present, an strategy McCarthy appeared to be considering.
McCarthy won no more than 203 votes in three rounds of voting, losing as many as 20 Republicans from his slim 222-seat majority,
Not since 1923 has a speaker’s election gone to multiple ballots, and the longest and most grueling fight for the gavel started in late 1855 and dragged out for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.
“Kevin McCarthy is not going to be a speaker,” declared Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., the hold-out mentioned by Fox News’ Kilmeade.
As the spectacle of voting dragged on, McCarthy’s backers implored the holdouts to fall in line for the California establishment Republican.
“We all came here to get things done,” the second-ranking Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise, said in a speech nominating McCarthy for the vote and urging his colleagues to drop their protest.
Railing against Democratic President Joe Biden’s agenda, Scalise, himself a possible GOP compromise choice, said, “We can’t start fixing those problems until we elect Kevin McCarthy our next speaker.”
But the holdouts forced a third and final round of voting before Republican leaders quickly adjourned Tuesday evening.
“The American people are watching, and it’s a good thing,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who nominated fellow conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as an alternative for speaker.
Jordan, the McCarthy rival-turned-ally, was twice pushed forward by conservatives, but he does not seem to want the job. The Ohio Republican is line to become Judiciary Committee chairman, and he rose during the floor debate to urge his colleagues to instead vote for McCarthy.
“We have to rally around him, come together,” Jordan said.
In all, a core group of 19 Republicans — and then 20 — voted for someone other than McCarthy. The first ballot sent votes to Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Jordan and others, while Jordan alone won the votes on the next two ballots.
To win support, McCarthy has already agreed to many of the demands of the Freedom Caucus, who have been agitating for rules changes and other concessions that give rank-and-file more influence in the legislative process. He has been here before, having bowed out of the speakers race in 2015 when he failed to win over conservatives.
Democrats enthusiastically nominated Jeffries, who is taking over as party leader, as their choice for speaker. He won the most votes overall, 212.
If McCarthy could win 213 votes, and then persuade the remaining naysayers to simply vote present, he would be able to lower the threshold required under the rules to have the majority.
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It’s a strategy former House speakers, including outgoing Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Speaker John Boehner had used when they confronted opposition, winning the gavel with fewer than 218 votes.
Said McCarthy late Tuesday at the Capitol: “You get 213 votes, and the others don’t say another name, that’s how you can win.”
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article