After Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House speaker failed six times over the course of two days, the California Republican realized that his campaign wasn’t headed in the right direction. In fact, after six ballots, he’d gained zero votes. McCarthy decided late yesterday that it was time for a new tactic.
The ostensible House GOP leader’s new plan was simple: make new concessions to his Republican opponents. In fact, McCarthy agreed to a rules change that would make it easier for members to oust him during the upcoming congressional session, lowering the threshold on the motion to vacate the chair from five to one. It’s a step he recently ruled out as excessive, but in his desperation, McCarthy included it in his latest offer.
And that’s not all. McCarthy also said he’d appoint House Freedom Caucus members to the powerful House Rules Committee, while also committing to pointless floor vote on congressional term limits. All of this coincided with the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McCarthy, announcing late yesterday that it will not spend in any open-seat primaries in safe GOP districts, which has been a priority for groups like the Club for Growth.
The fact that the Republican leader even offered the new concessions was notable. McCarthy and his allies have a choice between trying to strike a deal with Democrats or trying to win over far-right votes. As things stand, McCarthy clearly believes his best bet is pursuing the latter course.
For his trouble, he gained zero votes on the seventh ballot. NBC News reported:
The seventh time was not the charm for McCarthy on Thursday. The California congressman failed to reach the threshold of 218 votes needed to become speaker, with the same 20 Republicans that voted against him Wednesday standing firm despite more concessions from McCarthy and his allies.
In fact, the seventh ballot was identical to the sixth, except Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz voted for Donald Trump instead of Byron Donalds.
Behind-the-scenes negotiations are still underway. Watch this space.
Update: The vote on the eighth ballot looked a lot like the vote on the seventh, except this time, there was some far-right support for Republican Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, who is backing McCarthy. He nevertheless received two votes.
Similarly, on the ninth ballot, McCarthy again failed to gain any traction. When there were also multiple ballots exactly 100 years ago, that speaker's race also went to nine ballots, suggesting this year's drama is poised to have the most number of votes since 1859.
As I type, the process is advancing to a tenth ballot.