Kevin McCarthy has once again made history by losing his fourth, fifth, and sixth consecutive votes for speaker of the House.
The latest defeats occurred Wednesday afternoon after a brief confusion over whether the House would not simply adjourn without taking any votes.
This time, Republican rebels seeking to block Mr McCarthy from becoming speaker rallied behind Rep Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican who has only been in the House of Representatives since 2021. Twenty members backed Mr Donalds, meaning that the GOP leader failed to win over even a single one of his colleauges overnight.
In fact, he actually lost one vote, that of Rep Victoria Spartz, who voted “present” on the fourth ballot rather than supporting him as she did previously. There was no sign of any effect whatsoever from the all-caps endorsement of Mr McCarthy that former President Donald Trump issued on Truth Social hours before the vote began.
The votes continued throughout the day Wednesday, with little sign of meaningful movement in any direction. The only significant change was the movement of rebel votes to Mr Donalds from Jim Jordan, who a day earlier declined to put himself forward as a compromise candidate and voted himself for Mr McCarthy.
The California Republican and previous leader of the GOP caucus remained adamant heading into Wednesday’s vote that he would emerge as speaker when the process concluded. But on Wednesday, even Republicans were beginning to acknowledge the scope of the disarray that their party finds itself in, calling the process “messy” as it transpired.
“It’s a feature, not a bug,” Rep Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin argued in his speech nominating his ally, Mr McCarthy, for the fourth time.
Democrats, meanwhile, remained unified behind Hakeem Jeffries. The New York congressman came out ahead thanks to the defections of rebel GOP members from Mr McCarthy’s total. Were the other totals to remain unchanged, he would only actually need to pick up five votes himself to become speaker.
Mr Jeffries’s caucus has thus far resisted any attempts by Mr McCarthy’s team to have members vote “present”, which would lower the threshhold needed for his victory. They’ve also yet to come out formally behind any centrist Republican candidate who could win their support over Mr McCarthy, a move discussed by Rep Fred Upton and others on Tuesday as a possible means of freezing out conservatives.
Those conservatives may be more resistant than ever before to ending their campaign to block Mr McCarthy from becoming speaker.
One Republican congresswoman-elect, Anna Paulina Luna, told The Independent that several members of the so-called “Never Kevin” group had left Tuesday’s GOP caucus meeting feeling “disrespected” and likely in the camp of being unmovable on the issue.
Rep Nancy Mace, another Republican, was more biting in her criticism of the rebels.
“It’s about egos, not about policy,” she told The Independent. “They were asked point blank yesterday, what more do they want? They didn’t have an answer.”
The votes were broken up by brief periods in which members dissolved into conversations on the floor. CSPAN cameras captured conservatives having animated conversations with their Republican colleagues, though it wasn’t clear whether either side was making much progress in convincing holdout members.