Stairway to Seven: McCarthy Hopes for a Day Three Breakthrough After Six Deadlocked Votes for House Speaker

After two days, six votes, and no speaker, the House remains in chaos. Can Kevin McCarthy finally get the votes he needs to win the speakership?


After two days, six votes, and no speaker, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and his allies hope last-minute negotiations with the 20 G.O.P. holdouts will lead to a seventh ballot breakthrough for the beleaguered California Republican, allowing him to clinch the speakership at last.

  • The fourth, fifth, and sixth ballots were nearly identical to the first three, with 20 implacable holdouts unmoved by pressure from their fellow Republicans, the exhortations of former President Donald Trump, or House Democrats’ obvious schadenfreude.
  • McCarthy even lost a vote during the fifth round, dropping to 201, after Rep.-elect Victoria Spartz defected and decided to just vote present.
  • Negotiations between McCarthy and his nemeses continued into the evening on Wednesday, with both McCarthy allies and detractors like Rep.-elect Chip Roy expressing optimism that this round of “genuine, good faith” conversations could yield a workable compromise.
  • The McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund inked a deal with the Club for Growth to stay out of open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts, a major concession from McCarthyite forces. In exchange, the Club reportedly plans to back McCarthy’s speakership bid.
  • Even so, rumblings that Rep.-elect Steve Scalise, the House Majority Leader, could step forward as unity candidate grew as the second day of stalemate wore on.
  • Other scenarios like a coalition speaker elected by Democrats and moderate Republicans akin to the recent deals in the Ohio and Pennsylvania state Houses were being bandied about in the media.
  • The House of Representatives cannot function until a speaker is elected (although how functional it was in the first place is certainly up for debate). The stalemate has halted the House’s ability to pass legislation, conduct oversight, or even swear in lawmakers. Incumbents even have lost their security clearances until they are formally sworn in.
  • Even a mere vote to adjourn for the evening posed a challenge for House Republicans. The motion barely passed, 216-214, with several Republicans joining with Democrats to try and force a seventh ballot on Wednesday night. The House will reconvene at noon today for the next round of votes.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Axios reported some Republicans are considering abandoning the USS McCarthy. Rep.-elect Ken Buck stuck with McCarthy on all six ballots but told CNN “He either needs to make a deal to bring the 19 or 20 over, or he needs to step aside and give somebody a chance to do that.”
  • Fourteen out of the 20 rebels accepted campaign contributions from McCarthy before turning around and voting against him, Politico reported. Some holdouts, like Rep.-elect Eli Crane, benefitted from nearly $1 million in ads from McCarthy-aligned groups but are voting against the man who helped get them elected regardless.
  • CNN noted that even if McCarthy’s eleventh-hour negotiations are successful, Rep.-elect Chip Roy only believes he can flip 10 holdouts. This would still leave McCarthy short of the magic 218 votes he needs to win the speakership.



  • Per National Review, Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw is fed up with the GOP holdouts. The Texas Republican didn’t mince words: “I’m tired of your stupid platitudes that some consultant told you to say on the campaign trail, alright. Behind closed doors tell us what you actually want, or shut the f**k up.”
  • The Wall Street Journal profiled Rep.-elect Byron Donalds, who emerged as the preferred speaker candidate of the anti-McCarthy rebels. The nomination of Donalds, a self-described “strong, Trump-supporting, gun-owning, liberty-loving, pro-life, politically incorrect Black man,” marked the first time that two black lawmakers had ever been nominated for speaker.
  • Commentary’s Noah Rothman castigated the “anti-institutionalists” behind the speaker vote “debacle.” Rothman highlighted one House Republican’s comment to Politico: “I love s**tshows, and this is a s**tshow to behold.” He argues this “revealing quote” reflects a House Republican Conference that is fundamentally unserious and “is not a governing party.”

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© Dominic Moore, 2023