WASHINGTON — A small group of far-right Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to be the speaker of the House in the new Congress that started Tuesday.
McCarthy lost 19 Republicans, falling 15 votes short of the 218 he needed to win
The House can’t function without a speaker, so members will have to cast ballots again. And McCarthy could still prevail in a later vote if his Republican opponents tire of the stalemate they created.
In a party meeting Tuesday morning, McCarthy told his colleagues that he’d earned the job — and that the House would keep voting until he wins.
“We may have a battle on the floor, but the battle is for the conference and the country, and that’s fine with me” McCarthy told reporters after the meeting.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) offered himself as an alternative to McCarthy, even though he badly lost an internal election among the House Republican Conference in November. Both sides have suggested that if McCarthy can’t win, then an unknown consensus candidate will step forward.
Biggs has led the anti-McCarthy faction along with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, plus Reps. Bob Good (R-Va.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), all of whom belong to the caucus.
Norman told reporters Tuesday morning that he would vote for Biggs on the first ballot, but when asked if he would do the same in a second vote, he said, “We’ll see.”
Good said Monday that a consensus candidate would emerge on a second ballot but declined to name that person in a Fox News interview. He said the process could last a few hours or days.
Ostensibly, the Freedom Caucus members have challenged McCarthy because he won’t fight hard enough against President Joe Biden’s administration, and they want to empower rank-and-file lawmakers in a chamber that for years has been dominated by the speaker, who controls when the House votes and what bills reach the floor.
But the group is better known for causing chaos and openly advocating for government shutdowns. Biggs and Perry sought to help former President Donald Trump subvert the will of the American people when they voted to overturn the 2020 election results. To that same end, Norman wanted the White House to declare “Marshall Law.”
Though it’s not a permanent setback, McCarthy’s failure to win the speakership on the first vote is historic. The House hasn’t needed more than one ballot to elect a speaker since 1923, according to the Congressional Research Service.