Kevin McCarthy had the fight of his political life Tuesday when he lost a primary to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, becoming the first majority leader in a century to stumble on the primary ballot.
At the end of the first round of voting Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy had 203 votes, 15 fewer than the 218 needed to win the presidency after 19 Republicans voted against him.
Subsequent votes were expected Tuesday afternoon, though it was unclear whether McCarthy could improve his count and achieve the simple majority needed to become president. The constitution requires the election of a Speaker, and government cannot begin until one is elected.
Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill ahead of the vote after what he described as an “intense” meeting Tuesday morning, McCarthy blamed Republican lawmakers for having so far rejected his bid to become House speaker. Put personal interests before those of his party and country.
“Over there [are] There are times when we have to argue with our own members, they see the positions only for themselves and not for the country,” McCarthy said an hour before the vote to choose a new speaker. “We don’t empower some members over others.”
Congressman McCarthy, 57, of California, is the top Republican in the House and has long been tipped as a possible successor. nancy pelosiDemocratic Speaker of the House after losing his party’s majority in last year’s midterm elections.
While most House Republicans support McCarthy’s candidacy, a minority have threatened to derail his ambitions by voting against him after a relatively disappointing performance in November’s midterm elections.
Although the Republican Party won enough to regain control of the lower house of Congress, the “red tide” that McCarthy predicted did not materialize. At the same time, Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate, the upper house of Congress, after winning a seat in Pennsylvania.
The 435 members of the House of Representatives participate in a vote for the Speaker, the first agenda of the new Congress. A simple majority or a minimum of 218 votes is required if the entire House is present to elect a speaker.
McCarthy has struggled for months to rally support amid opposition from various factions in the Republican caucus, including hardline conservatives and lawmakers loyal to former President Donald Trump.
McCarthy’s relationship with Trump has oscillated, over the years, between shameless public displays of loyalty — Trump often refers to the congressman as “my Kevin” — and acrimony. After the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol, McCarthy reportedly said, “I was with him,” before smilingly posing for photos with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort weeks later. Trump endorsed McCarthy’s candidacy for speaker last year.
In recent weeks, McCarthy has sought to strengthen his position within the party by negotiating deals aimed at meeting the demands of various opponents.
Over the weekend, he released a set of proposed rules to change House practice. But on Sunday night, a group of nine Republican lawmakers released an open letter saying the changes don’t go far enough. They want additional concessions that would make it easier for a future speaker to cast a vote of no confidence.
Many on Capitol Hill say the process is likely to drag on for days until McCarthy gains enough support or finally steps aside in favor of another candidate. Although his running mate, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, has backed his boss’s offer, McCarthy is seen as the most likely alternative to garner 218 votes if he loses.
House Democratic leaders have so far rejected any suggestion to help McCarthy or consolidate their support around an alternative Republican candidate. While many Democratic lawmakers applauded their party’s relative unity Tuesday, some openly mocked the Republicans’ inconsistency. Congressman Ted Lieu of California posted a photo on Twitter of himself holding a bag of popcorn.