After two days and six ballots, there is no Speaker of the House and no prospect of one emerging anytime soon. Chamber Wednesday held three separate votes select the next speaker and get the same result every time, and republican every time Kevin McCarthy he came 16 votes short.
All 212 Democrats supported Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 201 Republicans supported Rep. McCarthy (R-CA), 20 Republicans voted for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R -IN) simply voted present. The House is expected to reconvene on Wednesday at 8pm, after members adjourn for dinner, discussion and the vague hope that something might somehow change. These are the four possible scenarios.
1) McCarthy makes a deal
While some of the rebels — mostly from the House Freedom Caucus — are considered “Never Kevin,” others are willing to back McCarthy if enough concessions are made. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) told reporters he needed the California Republican to show enough fiscal conservatism. “Is he willing to shut down the government rather than raise the debt ceiling? This is a non-negotiable item. (Norman appears to have combined the debt ceiling hike, which implies the Treasury’s ability to issue new debt and which would otherwise result in a US credit default, with effective government funding.)
Other potential concessions include placing some of McCarthy’s enemies in positions of power on subcommittees and changing House procedure to allow only one member to file a motion to declare the speakership vacant and hold a new election. Representative. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) suggested to reporters that McCarthy’s opponents had “down a ledge and need to figure out how to get back.” He reasoned that as they “start to realize they never had a plan in the first place,” they might finally come to terms with McCarthy.
This could even end up being a stalemate of size and scope that has much in common with the Western Front in WW1. There’s a lot of drama and big sound and fury with no real forward motion in either direction. After six votes, McCarthy it’s not a speaker yet but his tally dropped only 203 to 201 despite national attention and a press box overflowing with reporters, plus former President Donald Trump speaking on behalf of McCarthy.
There’s no reason this can’t go on forever. Just as McCarthy’s opponents are staunchly against him, some of his supporters have vowed to support the California Republican to the end. Mike Lawler of New York, a newly elected Republican from a Democratic district of New York, told Vox that he was ready to support McCarthy “to the last vote”. There’s no reason McCarthy shouldn’t have to fight on ballot after ballot in hopes of crushing his opponents. After all, having dropped out of the race to succeed John Boehner as rapporteur in 2015, it is likely that this McCarthy’s last shot in handling the gavel.
However, he hasn’t gotten a single vote in the past two days and there’s no reason to think he can do anything to move the needle.
3) McCarthy gives up
McCarthy might as well surrender. At this point he might admit he has no avenue to be a speaker and drop out of the race in the hope that Republicans can rally around an alternative candidate.
The most likely candidate at that point would be Steve Scalise, McCarthy’s number 2. The Louisiana Republican has long been considered the most likely Republican alternative to McCarthy. However, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) warned reporters yesterday that Scalise could also face some of the same criticisms as McCarthy as a longtime member of the Republican leadership. “I think a lot of people perceive Steve to be very similar to Kevin, but he could be that alternative that could bridge the gap.”
Other possibilities that could appease McCarthy’s critics include Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN). However, they may alienate some moderates who have been staunch allies of McCarthy. Moreover, McCarthy’s departure would challenge many of the concessions he had already made to conservatives on rule changes and lead to a renewed battle over the power of the next speaker versus that of the grassroots.
4) Unit candidate
The possibility of “one candidate unity” was floated: that somehow Democrats and at least some Republicans could band together to find a mutually acceptable candidate. However, such a scenario seemed even more suitable The west wing fan fiction that real life Wednesday, though former Rep. Justin Amash (L-MI) remained grounded in case the far-fetched happened. While some moderate Republicans scoffed at the idea of such a deal, it appears to have been presented more as a scare-off against recalcitrant conservatives into supporting McCarthy than as a serious proposition. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) told reporters late Wednesday afternoon, “I don’t think there’s been any really serious discussions about this.” Meanwhile, it serves as an excellent way to fill airtime on cable television.
House Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talks to reporters as he leaves the House Chamber during the second day of elections for Speaker of the House at the United States Capitol January 4. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images