What to Know in Washington: McCarthy’s Fight Drags Into Day Four

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Kevin McCarthy’s allies are still working to strike a deal with members of the group who’ve blocked the California Republican from being elected speaker in a historic 11 rounds of voting.

The standoff has left House Republicans fractured after they reclaimed the majority in the November election and has frozen all other business in the chamber, which will reconvene on Friday.

McCarthy and some of his supporters were adamant they would press ahead with negotiations to try and find the votes he needs no matter how long it takes.

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

“I’m not putting any time on it,” McCarthy said after the last vote Thursday night. “We got members talking. I think we got a little movement.”

McCarthy has tried to break the deadlock by offering significant concessions on House rules that would weaken his power and his ability to control hard-liners in his party, which raise the risk of chaos on issues like the debt ceiling and government spending.

Yet after three days of voting, 20 Republicans held firm in their opposition to McCarthy, more than enough to deny him the majority he requires to be elected speaker.

McCarthy’s back-to-back losses marked a post-Civil War record for the number of ballots needed to select a speaker. In 1923, Frederick Gillett, a Massachusetts Republican, was elected to the post after nine ballots. The last multi-ballot speaker vote before that was in 1859, when 44 votes were needed.

House Gridlock Over Speaker Now Longest Since Before Civil War

Only six other speaker elections have taken more than 10 ballots. Election of the speaker is the first order of business for House members, and they can do nothing else until that’s done except adjourn.

A faction of the dissidents most interested in changing House procedural rules met with leadership and others throughout the day Thursday.

Reps. Chip Roy (Texas), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Byron Donalds (Fla.) are spearheading the attempt to force the changes needed to earn their votes. They are angling to open up floor procedures to amendment votes, forbidding giant packages of bills and to guarantee conservatives have more seats on key committees. Billy House, Erik Wasson and Laura Davison lay the groundwork ahead of day four in the standoff.

Some House Republicans are worried McCarthy may be going too far in making concessions to the far right in order to win their support for his bid to be speaker, the last obstacle in his quest to lead the chamber. Read more.

Also Happening on the Hill


  • The House meets at noon to continue the speaker election process
  • The Senate will hold a pro forma session at 1 p.m.

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Republicans have hammered the Biden administration for killing the proposed pipeline extension from Canada to Nebraska in 2021, and introduced several failed measures in the last Congress to revive it. House and Senate Republicans expect to push the issue once again in the 118th Congress as part of an overall policy agenda focused on increasing domestic energy production.

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The chaos unfolding on the House floor threatens to tarnish the new GOP majority, which voters put back in power less than two years after a mob instigated by Donald Trump fought through police lines to ransack the building and try to stop certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.

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Around the Administration


  • Biden at 12:45 p.m. is scheduled to have lunch with Vice President Kamala Harris. At the same time, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will give a briefing to reporters.
  • At 2 p.m., Biden and Harris at the White House will mark the two-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol.
  • At 4:30 p.m., the president departs for New Castle, Delaware.

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The noon Moscow start time passed Friday for President Vladimir Putin’s order of a 36-hour cease-fire in Ukraine for the Orthodox Christmas holiday. Kyiv dismissed the offer as a ploy.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com; Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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