For the seventh time in three days, a group of conservatives blocked Republican leader Kevin McCarthy from winning the speaker’s gavel, leaving Congress in limbo and prompting talk among rank-and-file GOP lawmakers that it may be time for him to step aside.
In his bid to win over roughly 20 holdouts, Mr. McCarthy has offered a long list of concessions that would give them more say in the GOP agenda and more power to influence action on the House floor.
Mr. McCarthy’s negotiating efforts on Wednesday night yielded nothing for him on Thursday’s first ballot for speaker. For the third day in a row, he lost 20 votes from his conservative flank and remains 16 votes shy of a majority he needs to win.
The gridlock has left rank-and-file members questioning how long Mr. McCarthy, 57, can remain in the fight. Without a speaker, the House is paralyzed and new members-elect can’t even take the oath of office to officially begin their two-year terms.
“The fact of the matter is there comes a time when we want to govern,” Rep.-elect Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican, said. “I was sent here to govern, to get things done. And this is the complete opposite of that.”
The two sides remain at odds over conservatives’ demands for coveted committee positions, while a critical subgroup of at least five holdouts say they’ll never vote for Mr. McCarthy, which could ultimately doom him no matter what kind of deal he offers.
“I will never vote for Kevin McCarthy,” Rep.-elect Bob Good, a Virginia Republican, told reporters Thursday.
On the latest ballot, most of the holdouts backed Rep-elect Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican. Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz, also of Florida, voted for former President Donald Trump and Rep-elect Victoria Spartz, Republican of Indiana, voted present for the second day in a row.
Some in the group of holdouts said they were angry that details of their negotiations with Mr. McCarthy had been leaked to the media and caused more damage to the tattered relationship.
“A deal is NOT done,” Rep.-elect Scott Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican and head of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said on Twitter. “When confidences are betrayed and leaks are directed, it’s even more difficult to trust. … I will not yield to the status quo.”