House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy failed Tuesday to get enough support in the first three votes as his bid for Speaker of the House struggles to cross the finish line.
The vote leaves the race for speaker up for grabs, and Republicans divided with more rounds of votes expected. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, gathered a handful of supporters, becoming the main Republican opponent in the second and third votes.
Failure in this bid is not new to McCarthy, who withdrew his 2015 bid for the leadership position, which eventually went to Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. McCarthy reportedly was aggressively lobbying his Republican colleagues leading up to the vote and appealed to them in a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning that grew heated.
Conservative Republicans hesitated to throw their support behind the California Republican, who many saw as too liberal, but no challenger arose with enough clout to get enough votes.
McCarthy had reportedly already moved into the office of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ahead of the votes.
“In his 14 years in Republican leadership, McCarthy has repeatedly failed to demonstrate any desire to meaningfully change the status quo in Washington,” U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., said. “Despite our deep reservations we have continued to work in earnest to find a path forward with McCarthy, knowing that this crucial moment would come.”
Perry said he and other conservative members in the House laid out conditions for McCarthy but that he “balked” when faced with them. Those conditions included a promise to vote on a balanced budget, the “Texas Border Plan,” term limits for members of Congress, and the Fair Tax Act, which would create a national sales tax on certain services and property to replace the current income tax, payroll taxes, and estate and gift taxes.
“We requested transparent, accountable votes on individual earmarks that would require two-thirds support to pass, and to ensure that all amendments to cut spending would be allowed floor consideration,” Perry said. “He dismissed it.”
The public questioning of McCarthy undermined his effort and showed lawmakers were not afraid to voice their opposition.
Some did throw their hat in the ring. The biggest Republican challenger in the first vote was Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., who got a handful of votes in the first round but none in the second.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., the successor of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., received the Democratic vote but not enough votes to win the speaker’s spot.
“Even after the McCarthy Machine’s attempts to whip votes and smear my name for several weeks, McCarthy is still well short of the 218 threshold,” Biggs said late Monday. “Our party still requires new leadership and I will continue to oppose McCarthy for House Speaker.”