Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN), a past McCarthy supporter, voted “present” on the fourth and fifth ballot to elect the next speaker of the House, in an effort to allow for more negotiations within the conference to address the concerns of 20 Republicans who voted against Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) bid.
“My concern right now is that Republicans haven’t come together yet. So we have to go back to the conference room and deliberate, as divided as a group of people and figure it out,” Spartz said to reporters as she walked off the House floor. “How we can get people’s concerns addressed, how we can make sure that people, you know, who are unhappy with one thing and have a productive conversation.”
SPEAKER VOTE DRAGS OUT TO FIFTH BALLOT AFTER MCCARTHY STRUGGLES TO LOCK DOWN SUPPORT
Spartz, the only Ukrainian-born member of Congress, said she did not want to vote against McCarthy, and instead informed the GOP leader that she would be voting present ahead of the vote.
“I actually waited until the end to make sure that this doesn’t change the numbers, because it’s important for me to have a Republican speaker, because [voting present] reduces the number. I am still supporting him. But, ultimately, he needs to address the concerns of other people. As a body, we need to come together,” she said. “I voted present and didn’t vote for another candidate because I didn’t want to vote against him.”
“The only way for us to get a speaker is to go back to the room, to the drawing board and discuss how we can address the concerns of 20 people or if we cannot. We need to have a healthy deliberation. That’s what this body is about,” she said.
Donald Trump called on House Republicans early Wednesday to unite behind the House GOP leader for the speakership. However, Spartz said the former president’s comments had no sway on her decision.
“I’m an independent legislator. I only care what my people say, what the people who elected me.”
Tensions flared among the new House majority after a fiery GOP caucus meeting on Tuesday morning. A group of House Republicans opposed to McCarthy’s bid said they hadn’t changed their minds and were not satisfied with concessions McCarthy made to the Freedom Caucus in the rules package.
The changes included lowering the threshold for rank-and-file members to force a vote on ousting party leaders and a commitment to ideological diversity on committees. Some members like Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said the GOP leader didn’t go far enough and declined to give any of the defectors coveted committee assignments.
Earlier on Wednesday, Republicans ultimately did not hold a second caucus meeting ahead of votes.
Spartz declined to answer questions from reporters about whether Republicans should embrace a new candidate other than McCarthy but said she thinks the California Republican has “strong support.”
“I think right now he’s in a good position, but right now, he needs to get the numbers to become speaker. To get there, the only way is from meeting and talking with people and addressing their concerns.”
The House cannot conduct any business until a new speaker is elected by a majority of members. The stalemate foreshadows more divisions in the narrow House majority, which will have to compromise with a Democratic-controlled Senate and the Biden administration to keep the government functioning.
Republicans, who vowed quick action and accountability against the Biden administration once they took the majority in the lower chamber, are largely paralyzed until it is determined who will become the next speaker. There appears to be overflowing fury toward the group of Republicans who voted against McCarthy’s bid to become speaker.
“What I want to happen today is for us to get to work. Yeah, point made. Rules changed. Many of them are very good and needed, that I totally support. But, at this point, when you’re starting to demand individual committeeships or individual agendas, this isn’t about us. It’s not about Kevin McCarthy, it’s about what we were elected to do,” said Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) as he walked onto the floor ahead of the first votes on Wednesday.
“I’m getting increasingly frustrated. Today, we should be setting up the Select Committee on China. Yesterday, it should have been the IRS. We should be getting Jim Jordan, where he wants to be as the head of Judiciary. Twenty members should not be holding 200 hostage.”