Donald Trump continues to back McCarthy as Speaker: The first day of the new Congress did not go particularly well for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who was House Minority Leader in the last Congress and has been clearly aspiring to the Speakership for many years.
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In the vote for the new Speaker of the House Wednesday, three ballots were held, and McCarthy failed to gain the necessary amount of votes on any of them, even losing votes from ballot to ballot.
This was because of a rebellion by the House caucus’ right flank, several members of which refused to support McCarthy. Those opponents voted in the second and third ballots for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), even though Jordan has himself endorsed McCarthy.
It was the first time in a century that the speaker election went past the first ballot. And this meant that no other business of the Congress, from swearing-in of new members to the passage of House rules — much less legislation of any kind — could go forward.
Per the Associated Press on Wednesday, McCarthy is not giving up on his long-held aspirations to become speaker, and his most prominent endorser does not appear to be backing down.
Former President Donald Trump said early Wednesday in a Truth Social post that Republicans should back McCarthy for speaker. In a post that comprised a long run-on sentence, written mostly in all caps, the ex-president urged the political survival of a man with whom he has feuded in the past.
“Some really good conversations took place last night, and it’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY, & WATCH CRAZY NANCY PELOSI FLY BACK HOME TO A VERY BROKEN CALIFORNIA,THE ONLY SPEAKER IN U.S. HISTORY TO HAVE LOST THE ‘HOUSE’ TWICE,” the former president said on his social network. “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!”
Regardless of the outcome of the speaker vote, it will not result in Nancy Pelosi returning to California; the previous Speaker stepped down from the House Democratic leadership after the last Congress and is not a candidate for the Speakership right now, but she has stayed in Congress. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has been the unanimous choice of the Democratic caucus as their new leader.
Trump had declined to say whether he still supported McCarthy in an interview on Tuesday.
The former president and McCarthy have sometimes been critical of one another, with McCarthy stating in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 attack that he was considering calling the then-president and asking him to resign. However, McCarthy visited Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago not long after that, and Trump endorsed McCarthy for the Speakership last summer. Trump remains enemies, however, with Senate Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Will Trump’s support matter in the Speakership contest? Most of the Republicans who are part of the “never Kevin” opposition, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), have been strong Trump loyalists in the past. However, with Trump out of office, the days of Republicans dancing at all times to Trump’s tune are likely over.
The Republicans recaptured the House in the midterm elections in November, but the party’s margin of victory was considerably less than the “red wave” that had been expected, leaving the GOP with a razor-thin majority in the House. And while McCarthy appears to lack the votes to become Speaker, that’s also true of every other potential speaker. This has plunged the process into major uncertainty as the contest reaches a second day.
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.