Kevin McCarthy offers deal to end standoff in House speaker fight
Kevin McCarthy. Image via AP.

Will it be enough to win a majority?

The contours of a deal that could make Republican leader Kevin McCarthy the House Speaker have begun to emerge after three grueling days and 11 failed votes in a political spectacle unseen in a century. It has left Republicans in disarray and exposed anew the fragility of American democracy.

(Note: All House members currently bear the title of “Rep.-elect” until a new Speaker is chosen and members are sworn in).

The House will be back at it Friday, with Republicans trying to elect their new House Speaker — this time, against the backdrop of the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The deadly attack was an unimaginable scene of chaos that shook the country when a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying the Republican’s 2020 election defeat.

McCarthy made no promises of a final vote that would secure him the Speaker’s gavel, but glimmers of a deal with at least some of the far-right holdouts who have denied him support were emerging.

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

The agreement McCarthy presented to the holdouts from the conservative Freedom Caucus and others center around 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 and passing legislation.

Even if McCarthy is able to secure the votes he needs, he will emerge as a weakened Speaker, having given away some powers and leaving him constantly under threat of being voted out by his detractors. But he would also be potentially emboldened as a survivor of one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in U.S. history.

At the core of the emerging deal is the reinstatement of a House rule that would allow a single lawmaker to make a motion to “vacate the chair,” essentially calling a vote to oust the speaker. McCarthy had resisted allowing it, because it had been held over the head of past Republican Speaker John Boehner, chasing him to early retirement.

The chairman of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus, Rep.-elect Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who had been a leader in Trump’s efforts to challenge his presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, appeared receptive to the proposed package, tweeting an adage from Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify.”

Other wins for the holdouts include provisions in the proposed deal to expand the number of seats available on the House Rules Committee, to mandate 72 hours for bills to be posted before votes and to promise to try for a constitutional amendment that would impose federal limits on the number of terms a person could serve in the House and Senate.

Lest hopes get ahead of reality, conservative holdout Ralph Norman of South Carolina said: “This is round one.”

It could be the makings of a deal to end a standoff that has left the House unable to fully function. Members have not been sworn in and almost no other business can happen. A memo sent out by the House’s chief administrative officer Thursday evening said that committees “shall only carry-out core Constitutional responsibilities.” Payroll cannot be processed if the House isn’t functioning by Jan. 13.

After a long week of failed votes, Thursday’s tally was dismal: McCarthy lost seventh, eighth and then historic ninth, 10th and 11th rounds of voting, surpassing the number from 100 years ago in the last drawn-out fight to choose a speaker.

The California Republican exited the chamber and quipped about the moment: “Apparently, I like to make history.”

Feelings of boredom, desperation and annoyance seemed increasingly evident.

One McCarthy critic, Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz of Florida, cast votes for Trump — a symbolic but pointed sign of the broad divisions over the Republican Party’s future. Then he went further, moving the day from protest toward the absurd in formally nominating the former president to be House speaker on the 11th ballot. Trump got one vote, from Gaetz, drawing laughter.

Democrats said it was time to get serious. “This sacred House of Representatives needs a leader,” said Democratic Rep.-elect Joe Neguse of Colorado, nominating his own party’s leader, Hakeem Jeffries, as Speaker.

What started as a political novelty, the first time since 1923 a nominee had not won the gavel on the first vote, has devolved into a bitter Republican Party feud and deepening potential crisis.

Democratic leader Jeffries of New York won the most votes on every ballot but also remained short of a majority. McCarthy ran second, gaining no ground.

Pressure has grown with each passing day for McCarthy to somehow find the votes he needs or step aside. The incoming Republican chairmen of the House’s Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence committees all said national security was at risk.

“The Biden administration is going unchecked and there is no oversight of the White House,” Republicans Reps.-elect Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers and Mike Turner wrote in a joint statement.

But McCarthy’s right-flank detractors led by the Freedom Caucus and aligned with Trump, appeared emboldened — even though the former President publicly backed McCarthy.

Republican Party holdouts repeatedly put forward the name of Rep.-elect Byron Donalds of Florida, ensuring continuation of the stalemate that increasingly carried undercurrents of race and politics. They also put forward Republican Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, splitting the protest vote.

Donalds, who is Black, is seen as an emerging party leader and a GOP counterpoint to the Democratic leader, Jeffries, who is the first Black leader of a major political party in the U.S. Congress and on track himself to become speaker some day.

Ballots kept producing almost the same outcome, 20 conservative holdouts still refusing to support McCarthy and leaving him far short of the 218 typically needed to win the gavel.

In fact, McCarthy saw his support slipping to 201, as one fellow Republican switched to vote simply “present,” and later to 200 when a member left because a pre-planned medical procedure. With just a 222-seat GOP majority, he could not spare votes.

The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to difficulties ahead with Republicans now in control of the House, much the way that some past Republican speakers, including Boehner, had trouble leading a rebellious right flank. The result: government shutdowns, standoffs and Boehner’s early retirement.

The longest fight for the gavel started in late 1855 and dragged on for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.


Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Associated Press


  • Elliott Offen

    January 6, 2023 at 8:10 am

    Today we honor the victims of January the 6h terrorist attack on our Capitol. As the arrests and indictments continue, we can only hope and pray that terrorist leader Abu Bakr Al-Trump faces justice soon. Just look at how long it took to get Bin-Laden. It doesn’t have to be that way. We know where Trump is holed up!

    • Paul Passarelli

      January 6, 2023 at 10:07 am

      Agreed: RIP Ashli Babbitt — Murdered by Capitol Police.

      • Elliott Offen

        January 6, 2023 at 10:28 am

        She was killed during counter terrorist operations. She got shot out of the window of the Senate chamber. She was trying to kill Nancy. What are we on now? Q-Shaman 3.0 trying to kill Nancy?

        • Paul Passarelli

          January 6, 2023 at 11:34 pm

          No, she was unarmed and shot by a guy who was probably under qualified to be a Mall Security Guard in a panic.

          There was no insurrection, the trespassers (I will give you that much) were unarmed.

      • Josh Green

        January 6, 2023 at 10:36 am

        Ashli Babbitt was a terrorist goon and she deserved what she got.
        May she rot in hell forever.

        • Paul Passarelli

          January 6, 2023 at 11:47 pm

          Really? What act of terror did she commit?
          (This ought to be amusing.)

  • Joe Corsin

    January 6, 2023 at 8:17 am

    The GOP is like the Iraqi government. Corruption, aiding militia groups, can’t agree on anything, and can’t elect a leader. This is no longer a legitimate party. It needs to dissolve.

  • Paul Passarelli

    January 6, 2023 at 10:05 am

    “No man’s life, liberty, or property, is safe when the legislature is in session.” — Mark Twain.

    To that, I feel we all owe a debt of gratitude to the McCarthy holdouts. The 117th Congress did an enormous disservice to the American people & the future 118th.

    Of course the Useful Idiots that have been indoctrinated to fear the shutdown of the government will never understand that.

    • Joe Corsin

      January 6, 2023 at 10:32 am

      Republicans are obstuctionists and saboteurs. Many of them should be led out in handcuffs for the fraud that they perpetuate in Congress and on the American people. Elected to do a job, they’re criminally derelict in their duties. That and they only represent the interests of the upper class.

      • Paul Passarelli

        January 6, 2023 at 11:40 pm

        There are 200+ Democrats that refuse to cast a vote that would elect a Speaker. They are just as guilty of “dereliction of duty” if that is your criteria.

        The Dems are the minority so they *KNOW* that they cannot win. It would only taken a handful to have voted across the aisle which would have seated McCarthy, much to the chagrin of the 20 that are holding out.

  • Tom

    January 6, 2023 at 10:59 am

    By God when these apes finally leave Congress they should be eliminated. By God Paul Pizza is a brave man for continuing to post here with his real name. By God this man will be punished for this grievous error in judgement.

Comments are closed.


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