The U.S. House of Representatives has failed on a 14th ballot to elect a new speaker.
A band of 20 right-wing lawmakers has successfully blocked California Congressman Kevin McCarthy over four days of voting from becoming speaker because they believe he is not conservative enough.
McCarthy gained backing earlier Friday from 15 of the holdouts, coming up just a few votes short of the majority he needs to win the speakership. He must receive 218 votes to win the job, if all 434 current members of the House vote.
McCarthy’s path to winning depends on how many lawmakers are present for the vote, which affects the size of the winning majority, as well as how many of his opponents he can win over.
Allies of McCarthy say two Republican supporters of his leadership are planning to return to Washington Friday night for the vote, giving him a better chance to clinch the speakership.
McCarthy told reporters Friday he believed “we’ll have the votes to finish this once and for all.”
Committed to the contest
The Republican has never given any indication that he would drop out of the contest to lead the House, which would also, under a provision of the U.S. Constitution, make him second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency.
Republicans hold a slim 222-212 margin over Democrats in the new session of the 118th Congress, with one current vacancy, meaning McCarthy can lose the support of no more than four Republicans and still be able to reach a majority of 218, if all Democrats vote.
Republicans who are holding up the vote for speaker say they want to reduce the power of the speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence over the creation and passage of legislation.
McCarthy has acceded to several of the right-wing lawmakers’ demands, including allowing a single member to call for a snap internal House election to vacate the speakership if they don’t approve of his legislative policies or the way he is overseeing the chamber.
He has also promised them key committee assignments and full House votes on some of their legislative priorities, such as imposing term limits on lawmakers and stronger border controls to curb undocumented migrants from entering the U.S. across the southwestern border with Mexico.
House business on hold
It has been 100 years since neither a Republican nor a Democrat won the House speakership on the first round of voting.
Electing a speaker in the House is the chamber’s first order of business as a new session of Congress opens. Without a speaker, the lawmakers, all newly elected or reelected in last November’s nationwide congressional elections, have not been sworn in.
As such, the new Republican majority cannot form House committees to begin to consider legislation, start promised investigations of the Democratic administration of President Joe Biden, or provide constituent services for voters in their congressional districts.
The 57-year-old McCarthy has sought for years to lead the House. Over the past several weeks, he has met repeatedly with his Republican foes in an effort to secure their support.
Whomever the Republicans eventually elect will replace outgoing Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who remains a House member and cast her votes for Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the new Democratic minority leader in the House. All House Democrats have voted for Jeffries on all the previous speakership ballots, but he has no chance of winning because no Republicans plan to vote for him to help him reach the 218 majority.
Democrats, who have been locked in a 50-50 split with Republicans in the Senate the past two years, gained an edge in the nationwide congressional elections nearly two months ago and will hold a 51-49 majority, counting three independents who work with the Democrats.
New senators were sworn in on Tuesday.