Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks on the phone as voting continues for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned for a third straight day without electing a House speaker Thursday night after Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy lost his 11th consecutive vote for the position.
The House voted 219-213 along party lines to reconvene noon Friday, when the GOP will again try to end the political stalemate that began Tuesday and which has prevented the 118th Congress from conducting any business, including the swearing in of new members.
The deadlock marks the first time in 100 years that House lawmakers have failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot, and the standoff comes amid friction within Republican lawmakers who regained control of the chamber in November as the party's most extreme right continues to reject its more established elements.
McCarthy, who was the House minority leader during the 117th Congress, has sought to earn the House gavel previously held by Democrat Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, but has failed to garner the 218 votes necessary to do so as 20 Republicans continuously cast their ballots against him despite the GOP leader making requested concessions amid negotiations to end the stalemate.
Before the House adjourned Thursday, the California Republican lost his 11th vote for speaker and fifth vote of the day.
To reporters after the House closed, McCarthy attempted to hush concerns over the friction in his party, stating it's better to go through this process now in order for the lawmakers to learn to work together for the American people.
"So, if this takes a little longer, and it doesn't meet your deadline, that's okay," he said. "Because it's not how you start, it's how you finish. But if we finish well, we'll be very successful."
McCarthy and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., were again nominated for speaker on Thursday, with the Democrat consistently netting all 212 Democrat votes while McCarthy went from 201 votes to 200 throughout the day.
Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a controversial right-wing GOP lawmaker, also nominated former President Donald Trump to challenge McCarthy, as there is no rule requiring that the speaker is a member of the House, and Virginia Rep. Bob Good nominated Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., nominates former President Donald Trump for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
During the fifth ballot cast on Thursday, McCarthy received 200 votes, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., received 12, Hern received 7 and Trump received Gaetz's vote. Jeffries received 212 votes.
During the first four votes on Thursday, McCarthy received 201 votes, short of the 218 needed for a majority of the full House.
Donalds received 19 votes during the first ballot, and then 17 votes on the second and third. On the fourth he received 13 votes. Hern received three votes during the third ballot and seven during the fourth.
Gaetz voted for Trump on the first two votes Thursday.
Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., voted present during every ballot, as she did beginning with Wednesday's votes.
McCarthy failed to gather the necessary votes to be elected speaker in a series of six votes that stretched into Wednesday night.
McCarthy could not gain the support of more than 201 House members in any of the votes cast Wednesday while Jeffries received 212 votes in each round and Donalds received 20 votes from McCarthy's detractors in the two votes.
Both Donalds and Jeffries would be the first Black speaker in U.S. history if elected. Others, such as former U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, put themselves forward as an alternate.
Following Wednesday's vote, McCarthy gathered his allies and some of his opponents and reached an agreement that the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with McCarthy, would not spend money backing candidates in open-seat Republican primaries in safe Republican districts, while the Club For Growth would shift its stance and back McCarthy for speaker.
McCarthy also reinforced his commitment to several concessions he agreed to Sunday in a proposed House rules package, including changes to how the speaker could be removed.
The concession allows any five Republicans to call for the speaker's removal at any time, rather than a threshold of more than half of the House GOP conference that Republicans adopted in an internal rule in November.
McCarthy further addressed a request from the far-right wing to have more representation on committees.
After the sixth vote Wednesday night, the House voted 216-214 in favor of adjourning until Thursday afternoon. The vote was split mostly along party lines with Republicans wanting to call it a night, and Democrats voting to stay for the crucial vote.
The deadlock leaves much of the U.S. political machinery at a standstill. None of the newly minted congressional leaders, for example, can be sworn in until someone ascends to the role of speaker.
Returning lawmakers also have not had their security clearances renewed and can't receive private briefings from the military and intelligence agencies.
"If there's a real emergency, we couldn't respond," Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said. "Either the Republicans don't understand that, or they do understand that and they don't care. I don't know which is worse, but it is a profound danger to the country as long as it lasts."
Without a speaker, the House also can't carry out oversight of the federal government or other entities or call witnesses before committees.
Because the U.S. Constitution does not spell out what role the speaker plays in an official capacity, the role has largely been shaped by customs and tradition.
The speaker is next in line after the U.S. vice president to lead the nation in the event of a circumstance that would prevent the commander-in-chief from carrying out their duties.
Apart from the inability to govern, the Republican Party looks further divided as, without a speaker, there is no person to relay the party's agenda and explain the various legislative actions that take place on the floor.
This, in turn, could be seen as fractures emerging in a party divided over its future direction after candidates loyal to Trump suffered heavy losses in the November midterms.