House remains without a speaker after third day of voting

Politics

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — The chair of the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives remained empty Thursday, as Republican leader Kevin McCarthy failed in yet another excruciating day of ballots to win enough votes from his party to seize the chamber’s gavel.

McCarthy lost a seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh round of voting Thursday, unable to sway a group of 20 or so holdouts, the majority of whom are part of the House Freedom Caucus to McCarthy’s right. The House adjourned until noon ET Friday.

As darkness fell, the contours of an agreement with holdouts began to take shape, including several of the key rules changes they have been seeking for months. Those changes would shrink the power of the speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence in drafting legislation.

The chairman of of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, appeared receptive, tweeting the adage from Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify.”

“We’ve got some progress going on,” McCarthy said, brushing back questions about the lengthy, messy process. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Earlier in the day, with McCarthy’s supporters and foes seemingly stalemated, feelings of both boredom and desperation seemed increasingly evident throughout the day.

One of McCarthy’s steadfast critics, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, even formally nominated former President Donald Trump, a symbolic gesture, but one that highlighted the former president’s continuing influence over the Republican Party.

Lawmakers had reconvened Thursday to vote for their new House speaker, yet again, as House Republicans were unable to either elect McCarthy as House speaker or come up with a new strategy to end the political chaos that has tarnished the start of their new majority.

Despite endless talks, signs of concessions and a public spectacle unlike any other in recent political memory, the path ahead remained highly uncertain. What started as a political novelty, the first time in 100 years a nominee had not won the gavel on the first vote, has devolved into a bitter Republican Party feud and deepening potential crisis.

Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York was re-nominated by Democrats. He has won the most votes on every ballot but also remained short of a majority.

Republican Party holdouts again put forward the name of Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, assuring the stalemate that increasingly carried undercurrents of race and politics would continue.

A GOP source confirmed that McCarthy and his team continued to work with Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, one of the “Never Kevin” members, and additional negotiating was done that led McCarthy’s allies to believe they have a chance to flip some of those holding out.

The question is, will McCarthy’s efforts be enough to gain the votes he needs to be elected speaker? He can only afford to lose four Republican votes.

“They’re Freedom Caucus members, and I am a member of that Freedom Caucus. But I don’t believe that the battle we are raging right now is the battle we should be (waging),” Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, told NewsNation. “We can win the war and not win this battle.”

While many Republicans and Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have called the failure to elect a speaker an “embarrassment,” some Republicans have made the case that democracy is messy and that is what it’s supposed to look like.

“This is Washington, we go through this from time to time. It’s unfortunate we’re doing it here, but we’re going to figure it out and elect a speaker,” Donalds told NewsNation on Wednesday. “I fully anticipate we’re going to have a speaker by the time we finish our business on Thursday.”

Lawmakers have pointed out the major risk this delay causes: If there’s any sort of national emergency, whether it be a terrorist attack or natural disaster, Congress would be unable to respond.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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