Skip Navigation
Breaking News
Breaking News
from Washington and beyond

McCarthy Faceplant Watch: Five Rounds, No House Speaker, No End in Sight

Kevin McCarthy’s (failed) bid for House speaker continues.

Representative Kevin McCarthy
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy cannot catch a break, losing his fifth consecutive vote for speaker of the House on Wednesday.

The California representative has been open about hoping to seize the gavel, but not only has he repeatedly lost the rounds of voting, he has lost individual votes in the process. In round five, he won just 201 votes out of his party’s 222 seats.

Democratic challenger Hakeem Jeffries again won 212 votes, making him “the lead vote-getter” in each round, as noted by Representative Pete Aguilar, who has officially nominated Jeffries for multiple ballots.

Congress cannot move forward until someone is elected speaker, so the proceedings will continue until someone wins. In Congress’s 200-year history, there have only been 14 instances in which it took more than two ballots to confirm the House speaker. The last one was exactly 100 years ago. It took nine rounds of votes to resolve that battle.

Hopefully it does not take that long this time.

This post has been updated.

McCarthy Faceplant Watch: Four Votes and Still No House Speaker

Kevin McCarthy lost the fourth round of voting for House speaker, with no clear end in sight.

Representative Kevin McCarthy smiles and gives a thumbs up to the camera
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy lost a fourth vote Wednesday to become speaker of the House, as the Republican Party struggles to reach a consensus.

The California Republican has made no secret of his desire to be speaker, and confidently predicted he would have the gavel in hand by round two of voting. But he lost three rounds of ballots Tuesday, embarrassingly receiving fewer votes than his Democratic challenger, Hakeem Jeffries, and even losing votes throughout the day, proving that the third time isn’t really the charm after all.

McCarthy won only 201 votes in the first round on Wednesday, even fewer than the day before. Nineteen Republicans have voted against him every time, and their ranks have grown by two. Representative Byron Donalds switched to the “no” camp late Tuesday, and on Wednesday, Representative Victoria Spartz—who previously backed McCarthy—instead voted “present.” Jeffries again received 212 votes, thanks to his party’s unified backing.

Unfortunately for all of us, the shambolic proceedings will continue until someone is elected speaker. Congress cannot move forward until someone wins. The House cannot approve a rules package for the new session or committee leadership. Politico also reported that if the speakership isn’t filled by January 13, committee staffers would have to go without pay.

In Congress’s 200-year history, there have only been 14 instances in which it took more than two ballots to confirm the House speaker. The last one was exactly 100 years ago. It took nine rounds of votes to resolve that battle.

McCarthy has refused to recess between votes to try to whip up more support. While he could still pull off a victory with fewer than 218 votes, it has already become an exhausting slog.

This piece has been updated.

Democrats Aren’t Willing to Give McCarthy a Win—Yet

Despite murmurings of a possible deal, they are still unified in their opposition to Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Will Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries help resolve Kevin McCarthy's dilemma? Maybe, but not today.

Despite their newfound minority, House Democrats entered the Capitol in relatively good cheer this week, relishing the Republican disarray over who will be the next speaker. While GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy faced several defections in a series of votes for speaker on Tuesday, Democrats were united in their support for Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. With no consensus, the House adjourned in the evening without a speaker—or without actually swearing in any members—ready to pick up where it left off on Wednesday.

While there has been some early speculation about how Democrats might have a role to play in resolving McCarthy’s dilemma, they’ve thus far given no indication that they are ready to offer the would-be House speaker an assist. On Wednesday, Democrats signaled that they would vote against a possible motion to adjourn brought by Republicans, a move that would keep the Republican leader in the hot seat. Jeffries assured me on Wednesday morning that the party would “remain united” and said that he had not spoken to McCarthy about a possible resolution.

“Our colleagues are committed to support Hakeem Jeffries for speaker,” Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar told reporters on Wednesday, adding that he had not heard from his Republican colleagues.

Democrats were also generally unimpressed with the notion, promoted by moderate Republican Representative Don Bacon, that they could offer some support to McCarthy. “I can’t imagine Democrats voting for somebody who accommodated an insurrection and turned his back on the American people for the speaker of the House of Representatives,” said Democratic Representative Dan Kildee after a Wednesday morning caucus meeting. But he was open to the idea of finding a so-called unity candidate: “If they want to pursue that, they know where to find us.”

“I don’t see Kevin McCarthy being a unity candidate,” agreed Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “I do think that if there is any potential of a coalition candidate or, you know, Democrats bailing out Republicans, I think that would have to result in a much deeper and a much more profound negotiation of the structure of the House.” She offered some concessions that Republicans could make to earn Democratic votes on a speaker candidate: Granting committee chairmanships, for example, or agreeing to raise the debt limit, or a combination of multiple sweeteners. “I don’t think that would happen in a couple of hours,” Ocasio-Cortez continued.

Representative Rosa DeLauro also indicated that this was a Republican problem. “I think they have to sort it out,” DeLauro told me, adding that she didn’t think it was “likely” Democrats would take action to help McCarthy. “You don’t come to the floor of the House without the votes to be able to win.”

While Democrats may be popping the proverbial popcorn as this spectacle unfolds for their enjoyment, Kildee stopped short of saying that the new minority was having a good time. “The fact that Republicans are putting their dysfunction on full display has a lot of value. But if I wanted to have fun I’d think of some other things to do,” Kildee said with a laugh.

George Santos Caught Lying About Voting on Something He Wasn’t in Congress For?

The congressman-elect’s personal House website claimed he voted “nay” on the omnibus bill, which happened before Santos was in office.

Representative George Santos leans over a railing in the House chamber and looks directly at the camera
Win McNamee/Getty Images

George Santos just had his first day in Washington yesterday. Repeat—yesterday. But as of Wednesday, one day after his first day, Santos’s website claimed he voted “nay” on the House omnibus bill, a vote that took place on December 23, 2022.

It’s not impossible for there to be clerical errors while keeping track of members’ votes. However, that is slightly less likely when the error is published on the particular website of a specific member of Congress. It is unclear why a newly elected member of Congress would choose to do this. Then again, you could say the same with regard to most of the brazen lies Santos has already told.

The bold-faced lie comes after Santos also posted a press release Tuesday evening announcing his swearing in to Congress—something that actually hadn’t happened given that the House has yet to select a speaker.

The misannouncement could readily be chalked to an accidental posting or staffer mistake. Actively marking down a vote that simply never happened is also erroneous, but much less likely to be an honest mistake. But after all, if you’re looking for honesty, Santos is not the first place you might go.

This post has been updated.

McCarthy Defectors Call Jim Jordan the “George Washington” of Our Generation

In an attempt to block Kevin McCarthy from becoming House speaker, Republicans are now comparing Jim Jordan—who doesn’t want the job—to George Washington.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

While far-right Republicans continue to block Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become the speaker of the House, they have rallied behind one man as their preferred alternative: Jim Jordan, or as Representatives Lauren Boebert and Scott Perry say, the George Washington of our generation.

“Our candidate is Jim Jordan,” Boebert said Tuesday on Fox. “He may not want it right now, but George Washington did not want to be president. He did what was right for his country.”

Perry echoed the same point a day later on Fox Business.

Representative Matt Gaetz has helped lead the House Republican defectors’ charge to keep the gavel out of McCarthy’s hands and to instead put it in Jordan’s hands. Meanwhile, Jordan purports not to want the job, having even endorsed McCarthy himself. As a result, Gaetz and company cite Jordan’s hesitancy as proof of why Jordan would be a good leader. Just as Washington didn’t really want to be president and did anyhow, the thinking goes, so this moment calls for Jordan to rise to the occasion.

Perry’s comments comparing Jordan to the first president of the United States notably came the same morning that twice-impeached former president and target of numerous investigations Donald Trump announced his full-throated support for McCarthy.

“Sad!” Gaetz told Fox News after Trump’s endorsement. “This changes neither my view of McCarthy nor Trump nor my vote.”

“Supporting McCarthy is the worst Human Resources decision President Trump has ever made,” Gaetz tweeted.

Not for nothing, John Trumbull’s painting General George Washington Resigning His Commission is on display just down the hall from congressional hijinks, in the Capitol Rotunda. The painting depicts the moment when Washington resigned from his position as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, signifying his—and America’s—step away from militant autocracy and toward some semblance of a republic. “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world,” King George III is thought to have said upon learning of Washington’s resignation.

That is the kind of virtue Boebert and company are now trying to ascribe to Jordan.

Matt Gaetz Is More Outraged Over McCarthy in the Speaker’s Office Than He Was Over Rioters in the Capitol

Gaetz wants Kevin McCarthy to stop occupying the House speaker’s office. He didn’t care this much about the rioters occupying the Capitol on January 6.

Rep. Matt Gaetz
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Representative Matt Gaetz is livid that Kevin McCarthy has “occupied” the speaker of the House office—and he’s making a bigger deal about it than he did when rioters actually occupied the Capitol.

McCarthy has made no secret of his desire to be speaker, and he clearly thought he had the role on lock, going so far as to move his things into the speaker’s office Tuesday morning. But after three consecutive votes, not only did he lose every time, but he also lost votes as the session dragged on.

Gaetz, who has been staunchly opposed to a McCarthy speakership, demanded to know Tuesday night why McCarthy was still in the speaker’s office considering he had not yet won the gavel.

He was joined by Andy Biggs, who not only voted against McCarthy every time but also ran as a long-shot challenger in the first round.

Gaetz’s outrage seems particularly ironic when compared to his reaction the last time the Capitol was occupied: on January 6, 2021, when it was overrun by supporters of former President Donald Trump trying to stop Joe Biden’s election win from being certified.

Gaetz had already been involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. A loyal Trump toady, he has repeatedly downplayed the January 6 riot, including insisting that the FBI was involved in the attack.

On the one-year anniversary of the insurrection, Gaetz referred to the rioters as “patriotic Americans … who had no intent of breaking the law and doing violence.”

“We’re ashamed of nothing,” he said on a podcast hosted by former Trump adviser and extremist Steve Bannon.

Gaetz’s animosity toward McCarthy actually stems in part from the latter’s response to January 6. McCarthy considered Gaetz to be one of the chief offenders during the riot, The New York Times reported.

McCarthy said Gaetz was acting recklessly, such as by attacking Republican leaders who opposed Trump on television. McCarthy’s number two, Republican Whip Steve Scalise, accused Gaetz of “potentially illegal” behavior.

At the time, Gaetz slammed both McCarthy and Scalise as “weak men.” And now he’s one of the main obstacles to McCarthy becoming speaker.

House Republican Chaos, Day Two: House GOP Has Two Options, Both of Them Horrible

If Kevin McCarthy pulls it out, dissension deepens. If they move toward Steve Scalise, they’ve elevated “David Duke without the baggage.”

 House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks to reporters on the Hill.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House will reconvene at noon Tuesday to try again to elect a speaker for the new Congress, and here’s what could happen:

1. Somehow, Kevin McCarthy will prevail. This seems unlikely. Consider: During Monday’s three votes, his people were surely begging, pleading with at least some of the 19, then 20 Republicans voting against McCarthy  to switch back to supporting him or at least to vote “present.” They would have wanted to see that 19 go down to 17 on round two and 15 on round three. Instead, it went slightly up, to 20.

One never knows what goes on behind closed doors, and maybe there are some setup carrots McCarthy can offer the hard-liners to win enough of them over. But look at the math. At a minimum, he needs to flip 10 deniers to vote for him and nine to vote “present.” The nine voting “present” would reduce the overall number of votes to 425 from 434 (there is one vacant district, Virginia’s 4th, where Democratic incumbent Donald McEachin died and which, by the way, is a D+10 seat). Half plus one of 425 is 213, 10 more than McCarthy won yesterday. 

Looking down the list, it’s awfully hard to see 10 who’ll flip to McCarthy. Nothing’s impossible. But the reward-and-punishment system that exists on today’s radical right will reward continued resistance and punish capitulation. They bring McCarthy down, they’re heroes to Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon and the rest; they cave, they’re ninnies. Anger and dissension on the far right just deepen.

2. Steve Scalise or someone else emerges. Jim Jordan? Maybe, but he’s just not a good fit for the job. Well, none of them is a good fit for the job, but Jordan especially—he’s a pit bull, period. Can you picture him corralling votes, doing all that hard work that Nancy Pelosi has done so well over the years? Impossible.

Scalise raises an interesting set of mostly unexplored questions. He once told a Louisiana reporter, explaining his broad philosophy, that he was “David Duke without the baggage.” That quote is making the rounds in the liberal media right now. It’s time for the Democrats to pick it up. How will that sit with the moderate Republicans—and there are a few now, the several new members who helped the GOP get this majority? Will they want to go back to their voters in two years and explain their vote for that man? It’s possible that Scalise loses some support from the middle, if Democrats raise the issue properly.

The third idea floating around, that some consensus candidate will emerge, is the fantasy of people who think Aaron Sorkin is writing this. There are only two outcomes: McCarthy, or a non-McCarthy acceptable to the hard right that is running this show. However it ends, it’s a GOP disaster 30 years in the making and will hang over the entire two-year session.

George Santos’s No Good, Very Bad First Day In Congress

The new congressman doesn’t seem to be having a lot of fun.

Representative George Santos stands in the House chamber, looking sullen.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

It was George Santos’s first day in Washington Tuesday, and it seems like his reliable political chops and gravitational charm are not working quite yet. While the serial liar, and now representative, has apparently enjoyed some allyship from Marjorie Taylor Greene, he wasn’t otherwise seen doing much socializing.

As members of Congress steered clear of fraternizing with the guy whose identity we just can’t be sure of, he didn’t seem keen to talk to the people giving him the most attention: members of the press.

Appearing less like a man trying to make a splash on his first day on the hill, and more like a man advised by his lawyer to remain silent, Santos certainly isn’t projecting confidence to voters, or even to people wondering if he deserves to be in Congress at all.

After being royally exposed for lie after lie during the past few weeks, Santos has shown no intention of resigning, and the Republican caucus overall hasn’t made any substantial indication of what they will do. It’s a bit concerning for such an unflappable liar to just be sitting in Congress like a bored middle schooler.

Meanwhile, Santos is facing reopened criminal charges in Brazil for allegedly stealing the checkbook of an elderly man his mother was taking care of as a nurse, and using it to buy some $1,300 worth of clothes and shoes.

Santos also faces legal scrutiny stateside. The congressman-elect recently came into an irregularly quick and massive fortune, and loaned more than $700,000 to his campaign. As a result, both federal and local authorities are probing into Santos’s campaign and financial dealings. So while we can’t seem to address Santos’s almost-criminal level of lying, he may be charged with actual gross criminality.

Kevin McCarthy Spent an Entire Day Losing Votes for House Speaker

After three rounds of voting, it’s not clear what his plan is for securing the gavel.

Kevin McCarthy speaks at a podium.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Not only did Kevin McCarthy lose three rounds of votes Tuesday to become speaker of the House, but he also lost votes in the process.

In the first two ballots, McCarthy received only 203 votes out of the 222 seats his Republican Party holds in the House of Representatives. In the third round, he got 202 votes after Representative Byron Donalds switched his ballot.

McCarthy and his allies have been scrambling in the past couple months to amass the 218 votes necessary to secure the gavel. But he clearly thought he had the speakership on lock, telling Punchbowl News he was confident he would win by the second round of voting.

The California representative also refused to recess between votes on Tuesday to try to whip up the support he needs. Rather than try and make deals with his 19 staunch opponents, McCarthy seemed to believe that continuing to sit and mingle in the chamber as the session dragged on would do the trick.

The House adjourned after the third round of voting, leaving McCarthy to strategize (and stew) until the session resumes the following day.

Here are the 19 Republicans who have consistently voted against McCarthy’s bid for speakership.

  • Andy Biggs
  • Dan Bishop
  • Lauren Boebert
  • Josh Brecheen
  • Michael Cloud
  • Andrew Clyde
  • Eli Craine
  • Matt Gaetz
  • Bob Good
  • Paul Gosar
  • Andy Harris
  • Anna Paulina Luna
  • Mary Miller
  • Ralph Norman
  • Andy Ogles
  • Scott Perry
  • Matt Rosendale
  • Chip Roy
  • Keith Self

Republicans Remove Metal Detectors Installed in the Capitol After January 6

It’s been two years since the Capitol was attacked, and instead of rejecting the extremism that led to it, Republicans still have room for it.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
U.S. Capitol Police install a metal detector outside the House of Representatives Chamber on January 12, 2021.

Republicans opened their new House majority by removing metal detectors installed after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

While much of the spotlight on Tuesday is on the House speaker’s gavel, the first convening of the 118th Congress also marks the persistence of an extremist politics that existentially threatened members of Congress just two years ago.

The metal detectors’ removal is just an emblem of this Republican-led Congress’s ambitions, which include things like seeking more information about perennial boogeyman Hunter Biden’s laptop. House Republicans have focused much of their January 6-related attention not on the attacks themselves but instead on how attackers were treated after being arrested.

More broadly, scores of Republicans either dismiss or even promote the extremism that led to January 6. Some have called investigations into the attacks “witch hunts.” One of the newly elected members, Wisconsin Representative Derrick Van Orden, even used campaign money to fund his own trip to the January 6 riots, where he proudly joined the attackers.

And yet Van Orden joins other far-right Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene in supporting Kevin McCarthy for House speaker; while Greene has spent substantial airtime defending the Republican leader, Van Orden joined 53 other “Only Kevin” Republicans expressing sole support for McCarthy as speaker.

In his attempts to curry favor with detractors, McCarthy has proposed numerous rule changes, including one that would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. While his efforts haven’t yet convinced his opposition, it just goes to show that the folly of conservative governance will plague this Congress no matter who gets the gavel.

Agenda items already parroted most by Republican members are mostly steeped in conspiracy and cynicism. And their first major action, even without a House speaker, was to make it easier to bring weapons into the Capitol. So while there may be an entertaining element to the “Republicans in Disarray” narrative, one thing is unfortunately certain: The corrupt, dangerous far right will maintain stride in this Congress.