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Kevin McCarthy loses first round of House speaker vote in new Congress

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy appears to lack support to become speaker

WASHINGTON — Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy failed to secure enough support for his bid to become House speaker during the chamber’s first round of voting Tuesday, the first time in a century that the majority party failed to coalesce behind a speaker and forced more than one round of voting.

It was unclear immediately after the first round what next steps the Republicans would take. McCarthy has vowed to hold as many rounds as needed to secure the necessary 218 votes. He secured only 203 votes in the first round of voting.

During a tense voice vote, all 212 Democrats rallied unanimously around incoming Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y. Ten Republicans voted for McCarthy’s only declared GOP rival, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, while nine GOP lawmakers voted for other alternatives — Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Jim Banks of Indiana, Lee Zeldin of New York and Byron Donalds of Florida.

US House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reacts as Representatives cast their votes for Speaker of the House on the first day of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the US Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Win Mcnamee | Getty Images News | Getty Images

McCarthy’s failure to win public support from his entire caucus has already cast a shadow over the new Republican majority, exposing divisions within the party that have existed for decades. The differences were deepened by former President Donald Trump, who emboldened a small band of ultra-conservatives.

Trump eventually backed McCarthy’s bid for speaker, as did other influential conservatives such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. But the ex-president’s sway within the GOP caucus did not prevent McCarthy’s initial defeat Tuesday.

After the first vote, Biggs tweeted that the tally showed Republicans “have made clear that our party deserves a new leader.”

“McCarthy should stand down and allow us to select someone else in the next ballot,” he wrote.

The mood on the House floor following the first vote was cheerful and energetic, due in part to the presence of members’ children and family members, many of whom came to witness what they expected would be swearing in ceremonies. But until a speaker is elected, the rest of the chamber’s members-elect cannot be sworn in, because their oath of office is administered by the speaker.

House Republicans began Tuesday morning with a caucus meeting that was viewed as McCarthy’s final opportunity to make his pitch to members who might be on the fence.

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After the meeting but before the vote, McCarthy told reporters that “we may have a battle on the floor, but the battle is for the conference and the country, and that’s fine with me.”

“Look, I have the record for the longest speech ever on the floor, I don’t have a problem getting a record for the most votes for Speaker too,” he added.

Judging from early statements by key Republican holdouts, the conservatives had a long list of demands they believed McCarthy had failed to meet.

House Democrats, meanwhile, openly relished the internal chaos roiling the opposing party.

“We certainly are seeing chaos today in Congress, and this is an extension of the extremism that we have seen from the GOP,” incoming House Minority Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

She accused McCarthy of having “thrown away his moral compass.”

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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