Four key things to watch on third day of chaotic speaker vote

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., arrives to the House chamber at the beginning of an evening session after six failed votes to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon/AP

Four key things to watch on third day of chaotic speaker vote

Cami Mondeaux

January 05, 08:18 AM January 05, 08:18 AM

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The House is set to reconvene at noon on Thursday for its third day of leadership elections as lawmakers brace for a seventh round of roll call votes, and possibly more, to elect their next speaker and get the 118th Congress underway.

House lawmakers voted to adjourn shortly after 8 p.m. on Wednesday without selecting a speaker, as no candidate was able to garner the majority vote needed to secure the leadership position. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who has long positioned himself as the apparent heir to take the speaker’s gavel, said lawmakers would continue discussions before their next meeting, arguing the repeated roll call votes were becoming unproductive.


To secure the gavel, McCarthy needs a majority of voting members — in this case, 218 lawmakers — to vote for him. In the new Congress, the GOP only holds a nine-vote advantage in the House, giving McCarthy a challenge as he faces growing opposition within his party.

Here are four things to watch for as the House speaker vote drags into its third day:

McCarthy offers new round of concessions in bid to win over defectors

After failing to make headway in three rounds of roll call votes on Wednesday, McCarthy proposed a new bout of concessions to some of his most stubborn opponents in a last-ditch effort to win their support before the chamber reconvenes.

As part of his latest concessions, McCarthy agreed to a proposal to add more Freedom Caucus members to the House Rules Committee, as well as further lowering the number of members needed to call for a floor vote to oust a sitting speaker, according to CNN. The compromise builds on previous concessions in which McCarthy agreed to lower the number of votes needed to oust him from the position possibly should he be elected, marking a significant win for far-right conservatives.

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Additionally, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with the California Republican, agreed not to interfere with open GOP primaries, earning McCarthy the support of the Club for Growth, an influential conservative group that has opposed his candidacy.

It’s not clear whether those concessions will be enough to secure McCarthy the speakership, but the party leader touted the talks as meaningful progress.

McCarthy still faces staunch opposition from Gaetz and Boebert

By the end of the third roll call vote on Wednesday, McCarthy still faced at least 20 defectors in the Republican Party who voted against his speakership bid — putting him far below the 218-vote threshold needed to secure the seat.

Most of McCarthy’s defectors come from the party’s ultraconservative wing, including firebrand Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL). Boebert even went so far as to call on McCarthy to drop his bid during a speech on the House floor, telling him he doesn’t have the votes to win.

Twenty GOP lawmakers voted against McCarthy to back Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) in the latest round of voting, with one Republican voting present. Donalds initially voted for McCarthy in the first two roll call votes before backing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) in the third round on Tuesday, conceding that “at the end of the day, we’ve got to get to 218.”

Lawmakers then narrowly voted to adjourn before starting a seventh round of voting, with both Boebert and Gaetz joining Democrats in voting against the motion. Rep. Andy Biggs, one of McCarthy’s biggest critics, and Rep.-elect Eli Crane also voted against adjourning.

Trump’s influence waning in speaker vote

Although several of McCarthy’s defectors are far-right conservatives who brand themselves as staunch allies of Donald Trump, the former president doesn’t seem to have much of an influence over their decision.

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Trump reiterated his support for McCarthy before the House reconvened on Wednesday, calling on Republicans to back his bid. His comments were followed by similar sentiments by former Vice President Mike Pence, offering McCarthy two key endorsements from party leadership.

However, many critics seemed unconvinced.

“Supporting McCarthy is the worst Human Resources decision President Trump has ever made,” Gaetz said in a tweet. “Sad!”

Boebert also responded to Trump’s endorsement during a House speech on Wednesday, suggesting the former president should tell McCarthy to drop out of the race altogether.

“Even having my favorite president call us and tell us we need to knock this off — I think it actually needs to be reversed,” Boebert said. “The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, sir, you do not have the votes and it’s time to withdraw.”

Democrats and Republicans quietly consider speaker deal

As McCarthy tries to nail down support from far-right lawmakers, some centrist Republicans are reportedly considering making deals with Democrats to end the speaker drama one way or another.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) offered Republicans a deal to end the voting stalemate if the party can meet two conditions: not to use the debt ceiling as a political weapon and finding a deal on subpoena power. If the GOP can agree to those terms, Khanna said he could support a Republican nominee such as Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) or Mike Gallagher (R-WI).

In all six rounds of voting, no Democrat has strayed from casting their votes for presumptive Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). However, if Democrats are able to agree on a GOP nominee, the math could help push the House across the finish line to elect a speaker.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also floated a possible deal with Republicans to create a coalition government, but she stopped short of committing to cut a deal as Democratic members appear to be in no hurry to help move the vote along.

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