On the opening day of the 118th Congress, Utah Rep. Chris Stewart is displeased with his fellow Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives who have refused to elect California Rep. Kevin McCarthy as the chamber’s new House speaker.
After more than five hours of floor time and three rounds of voting Tuesday, the House adjourned without a speaker and will return at Wednesday 12 p.m EST.
McCarthy has run into strong opposition from his political right, who think the Californian should not lead the recently GOP-flipped chamber.
“A small group of egotistical members are currently holding up the House Speaker vote,” Stewart wrote on Twitter amid a chaotic second vote on Tuesday. “But they have no candidate. They have no consensus. And they have no goal.
“Don’t buy their empty rhetoric about ‘draining the swamp,’” he added. “They just want fifteen minutes of fame.”
Democrats, who were led by another Californian, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, during the last two congresses, maintained a united front Tuesday.
McCarthy garnered only 203 Republican votes the first two rounds, as all 212 Democrats voted all three rounds for recently-elected minority leader, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. During the third round Tuesday afternoon, Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds flipped from voting for McCarthy to an opposing GOP candidate during the third round of votes. Before deciding on a fourth round of voting, the House decided to adjourn for the evening.
Appearing to troll Republicans, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, said on Twitter that he was taking popcorn to the House floor on Tuesday.
Utah’s Reps. Stewart, Blake Moore, John Curtis and Burgess Owens voted for McCarthy during the three rounds.
Without a speaker in place, the House did not swear in the incoming class of lawmakers for the 118th Congress, but those freshly-elected representatives were able to vote in the speaker’s race.
Republicans have a narrow, 222-seat majority in the House, which has left McCarthy with very little room to lose support from members of his own party. The GOP narrowly flipped the House this past November during the midterm elections.
For weeks ahead of Tuesday’s vote, McCarthy sparred with members of his own party, with negotiations and pleas of support lasting through Tuesday’s votes, The Associated Press reported.
Deeply conservative members of the House, like Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, have voiced their opposition to McCarthy. Boebert told reporters Tuesday morning she would not be voting for McCarthy, comparing his actions to the former House Speaker Pelosi. Boebert later voted for Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, during each round of votes.
No candidate for House Speaker reached the 218-vote threshold during the rounds of voting, something that hasn’t happened since 1923, according to the AP. In total, 19 representatives didn’t opt for McCarthy or Jeffries during the first round of voting, including 10 votes for Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs. Twenty voted against McCarthy in Tuesday’s final round.
In hopes of ginning up support for McCarthy, Jordan nominated McCarthy during the second round of voting. However, Jordan was quickly followed up by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, who nominated the Ohioan.
“I rise to nominate the most talented, hardest working member of the Republican conference who just gave a speech with more vision than we have ever heard from the alternative,” Gaetz said on the House Floor. “I’m nominating Jim Jordan.”
Jordan ended up receiving all 19 dissenting votes from GOP representatives during the second round, effectively blocking McCarthy’s election despite Jordan’s support.
In the third round of votes, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise nominated McCarthy, and Texas Rep. Chip Roy nominated Jordan. McCarthy garnered 202 votes during the vote, while Jeffries — who was nominated by California Rep. Pete Aguilar before all three votes — gathered 212 and Jordan had 20 votes.
Utah’s Owens said in a tweet Tuesday morning that he proudly supports McCarthy for Speaker. Owens, who was starting his second term in the House, said McCarthy has led the House GOP, “into the majority and unified our conference behind a bold agenda that brings commonsense solutions back to the People’s House.”
In December, Moore and Curtis urged their GOP colleagues to elect McCarthy as House Speaker. The two were part of 21 Republicans from the Republican Governance Group who signed a letter in support of the California Republican.
Moore told The Wall Street Journal on Monday he was still backing McCarthy’s bid for speaker.
“If we don’t have a speaker we can’t do any of the things that all of us want to do,” Moore said. “We will either be the party that comes together to advance our agenda or let just a handful make it impossible to accomplish that agenda.”