- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2023

For the fourth time in two days, Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy fell short of the votes needed to win the speaker’s gavel and even lost a vote.

A band of conservative Republicans Wednesday once again blocked Mr. McCarthy, of California by denying him the 218 votes needed to win the speakership. Instead, they nominated Rep.-elect Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican who dropped his support of Mr. McCarthy on Tuesday.

Mr. McCarthy lost 20 votes to Mr. Donalds, while an additional Republican, Rep.-elect Victoria Spartz, of Indiana, who backed Mr. McCarthy on Tuesday, voted present on the latest ballot.

The GOP impasse froze House action for a second day and prevented lawmakers from organizing for the 118th Congress, including swearing in the House members.

The group of GOP holdouts is seeking from Mr. McCarthy significant changes to the House rules and a larger say in the party’s legislative agenda.

“We’re not there,” Rep.-elect Chip Roy, of Texas, who nominated Mr. Donalds, said on the House floor Wednesday.  

SEE ALSO: Trump’s last-minute plea for McCarthy doesn’t sway any House Republicans

The changes to House rules that they are demanding would significantly weaken the speakership, including making it easier for lawmakers to eject a speaker.

They also want promises for a chance to vote on a Republican agenda that includes term limits for members of Congress, a balanced budget act, a bill to end income taxes and replace them with a sales tax, and legislation advancing their favored strategy to secure the southern border. The lawmakers want a new rule to ensure a minimum of 72 hours is provided to review legislation ahead of a vote, and they want an end to rushed consideration of massive government spending bills that have contributed to inflation and a soaring debt and deficit.

Mr. Roy touted Mr. Donalds, 44, as the first African-American to be nominated for speaker by the GOP. On the Democratic side, lawmakers for the second day in a row nominated their party leader, Rep-elect Hakeem Jeffries, 52, of New York, who is also Black.

Like the three previous ballots on Tuesday, however, no lawmaker won enough votes to become speaker. And for the second day in a row, Mr. Jeffries won more votes than Mr. McCarthy due to the GOP‘s divided conference, giving Democrats an additional reason to gloat about their own party’s unity. 

The dragged-out fight for the speaker’s gavel has blighted the GOP‘s takeover of the House majority and at least temporarily weakened Mr. McCarthy, 57, who has been in GOP leadership since 2011 and in the last four years served as the Republican leader. 

Frustration is mounting among Republican and Democratic lawmakers, who cannot be sworn into office until the duly elected House speaker administers the oath of office.

SEE ALSO: Steve Scalise emerges as favorite to win speaker’s race: Oddsmaker

Wednesday began in the Capitol with a second day of closed-door GOP meetings in the speaker’s office, where Mr. McCarthy has set up headquarters as he plots a path to winning the gavel.

Mr. McCarthy told reporters he’s confident he will eventually win enough votes, noting there is no other House lawmaker who can win more support than him. 

“I still have the most votes,” Mr. McCarthy said. “We’re going to continue to talk, we’ll find an agreement where we all get together, we work through this, and get it done.”

Mr. McCarthy enjoys the backing of the vast majority of Republicans in the conference. 

On Wednesday, he was nominated by Rep.-elect Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, who said Mr. McCarthy would not be a business-as-usual speaker.

“He’s laid out a plan to renew the House of Representatives and once again, make it an institution that we can credibly look ourselves in the mirror and say we are working in the people’s house,” Mr. Gallagher said.

He urged Republicans to get behind Mr. McCarthy.

“It’s time to get to work,” Mr. Gallagher said. 

To win, Mr. McCarthy will likely have to strike a deal with the now-21 House Republicans who oppose him. A few in the group will never vote for Mr. McCarthy, but some of them want to negotiate with him and secure more power and influence in the Capitol for their conservative faction. 

Many in the group of rebels belong to the House Freedom Caucus, which was first formed by dozens of conservatives elected in 2010 under the banner of the tea party movement.

The group says their priorities have been ignored or sidelined by a GOP leadership that has been unwilling to govern aggressively to advance a conservative agenda.

Mr. Roy, in his speech nominating Mr. Donalds, said the group has spent months negotiating the changes with Mr. McCarthy, without enough success.

“We’re not at the place where we need to be to guarantee that we’re going to be able to stand up in the face of the swamp that continues to step over the American people on a daily basis and spend money we don’t have and to continue to leave our borders open and continue to fund bureaucrats that are stepping over the freedoms of the American people,” Mr. Roy said.

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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