Deadlocked House adjourns until Thursday after Kevin McCarthy racks up three more defeats

Rep. Kevin McCarthy sitting glumly in the House chamber
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) watches as another vote to elect a House speaker fails Wednesday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The House adjourned without electing a speaker Wednesday after Republican leader Kevin McCarthy failed in his fourth, fifth and sixth attempts to secure the post he has long desired.

McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), who also fell short in three votes Tuesday, now has more time to negotiate a compromise in an effort to win the support of some of the 20 hard-right Republicans who have blocked him from the speakership.

Former President Trump had called in a series of social media posts Wednesday morning for members to back McCarthy — but that had little effect on the day’s action, with McCarthy ultimately losing ground as a member who had previously supported him instead voted “present.”


On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida became the sixth Republican to nominate McCarthy for the post. But for the sixth time, a right-wing Republican put forward an alternative, with Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) rising to nominate Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.).

“Let’s work together,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who had nominated Donalds in the previous round of voting, said on the House floor. “Let’s stop the campaign smears and tactics to get people to turn against us, even having my favorite president call us and tell us we need to knock this off.

“I think it actually needs to be reversed. The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, sir, you do not have the votes and it’s time to withdraw.”

The 20 Republicans who had opposed McCarthy in the third vote Tuesday all supported Donalds in subsequent ballots Wednesday. That group included Donalds, who voted for himself three times after backing McCarthy on the first and second ballots and supporting Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on the third.

McCarthy’s vote total declined further Wednesday as Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who had previously supported him, instead voted present.

Trump and President Biden weighed in on the chaotic beginning of the new Congress on Wednesday morning, as the weeks-long standoff within the House GOP persisted. And with neither side in the Republican conference willing to blink, there was no immediate end in sight.


Although some Republicans may agree with Biden’s assessment that the long battle for the speakership is “embarrassing,” no Republican in the chamber is taking cues from the Democratic president.

If Trump’s endorsement of McCarthy was a test of the former president’s hold on the House Republican Conference, though, the vote results suggest he’s lost his grip.

Trump moved zero votes in McCarthy’s favor, casting doubt on the Californian’s path to becoming speaker, a powerful post that would make him second in line for the presidency, behind the vice president.

Trump posted on Truth Social just hours ahead of the House’s fourth attempt to elect a speaker.

“It’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” Trump wrote. “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB - JUST WATCH!”

In another post, Trump argued that Republicans “ought to be fighting” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and McConnell’s wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, if they’re going to be fighting within the party at all.

“The harm they have done to the Republican Party is incalculable,” he said of the couple.

McConnell, who on Tuesday became the longest-serving Senate leader in history, joined Biden on Wednesday at an event in Covington, Ky., to celebrate the bipartisan infrastructure law.

Biden’s rare appearance with McConnell stands in contrast with the stalemate in the House of Representatives, where the GOP is struggling to elect a speaker.

Jan. 4, 2023

Earlier Wednesday, the president told reporters outside the White House that he hopes Republicans “get their act together.”

“It’s a little embarrassing it’s taking so long — and the way they are dealing with one another,” Biden said. “The rest of the world is looking.”

McCarthy left the House floor Tuesday afternoon 16 votes shy of the majority needed to win the gavel, becoming the first majority party leader in a century not to win the speakership on the first ballot. By the final roll call Wednesday, he was no better off.

The historic defeat stalled members’ swearing-in, GOP committee assignments and a vote on the rules package that will ultimately govern the 118th Congress.

Instead, House Republicans put their divisions on display throughout the day, offering a stark contrast to their unified Democratic colleagues across the aisle and the functioning Senate chamber on the other side of the Capitol.

And even as McCarthy worked the phones from the speaker’s office after the chamber adjourned Tuesday, some of his antagonists took issue.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wrote a letter to the architect of the Capitol asking, “How long will he remain there before he is considered a squatter?”

“Please write back promptly,” Gaetz added, “as it seems Mr. McCarthy can no longer be considered Speaker-Designate following today’s balloting.”

Trump, who launched a third run for the presidency in November, had declined to endorse McCarthy’s bid to be speaker as recently as Tuesday night in a brief phone call with NBC News, telling a reporter: “We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how it all works out.”

His support for McCarthy seemed soft again by Wednesday afternoon. Shortly after the House clerk began accepting nominations for the fourth round of voting, the ex-president seemed to entertain the prospect of Republicans electing an alternative to McCarthy as speaker.

Newly retired Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — who had earlier called the long-shot idea of returning to serve as a compromise speaker “intriguing” — is a “STONE COLD LOSER!” and “the single WORST person the Republicans could have as Speaker,” Trump wrote.

His post made no mention of which of the current House Republicans he thought would be the best candidate for the job.