By Tom Ozimek
Some 20 Republicans stand between McCarthy and the gavel as the House adjourned on Wednesday after a sixth ballot failed to hand the speakership to the California Republican.
The House held three votes on Wednesday in which no candidate captured the 218 votes needed to become House Speaker, mirroring three failed votes a day prior.
The stalemate could potentially be broken in a seventh vote scheduled for Thursday, with former President Donald Trump taking to Truth Social to urge holdout Republicans to cast their vote for McCarthy.
Musk, too, took to social media early Thursday morning to announce his endorsement.
“Kevin McCarthy should be Speaker,” Musk wrote.
In apparent acknowledgement of the differing views on McCarthy’s candidacy, Musk later added: “Subtle, but I am beginning to suspect opinions differ on this matter … If not McCarthy, then seriously who?”
Musk’s comment drew a series of reactions from Twitter users, ranging from serious suggestions like Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a favorite of McCarthy’s GOP opponents who received 20 votes on Wednesday, to less serious ones like a recommendation that it should be Musk himself.
Wednesday’s drama on Capitol Hill ended with McCarthy earning 201 votes in the final vote of the day—and sixth ballot overall—the same number of votes that he got in the day’s two other roll calls.
Leaving the negotiating room in the Capitol late Wednesday, McCarthy claimed “good progress” in his often contentious negotiations with dissident Republicans who oppose his bid for the gavel.
“We don’t have a deal yet but we’re making a lot of progress,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill.
McCarthy’s failure to clinch a win marks the first time in 100 years that a House Speaker nominee could not take the gavel on the first or second vote.
The longest and most grueling fight for the gavel started in December 1855, dragging out for two months and requiring 133 ballots before Nathaniel Banks was declared House speaker.
Reporters on Capitol Hill asked McCarthy after Tuesday’s three rounds of failed votes if he would drop out of the race.
“It’s not going to happen,” he replied, adding that Trump had “reiterated his support” for his candidacy.
‘Kevin McCarthy or Chaos’
Trump was initially guarded in his remarks after Tuesday’s failed vote, though the former president later took to Truth Social to say he’s fully backing McCarthy for the speakership.
“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” and “CLOSE THE DEAL.”
Trump, an influential figure in Republican circles whose endorsements were much coveted by GOP candidates ahead of the November midterms, urged Republicans not to turn a “GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT.”
Republicans managed to retake the House in the midterm election.
“Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB,” Trump added.
Another influential Republican, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, told Fox News on Monday that the GOPers trying to block McCarthy’s speaker bid are misguided in their opposition.
“I think it is a remarkably shortsighted and, candidly, selfish position, and I don’t understand where they’re coming from,” he told the outlet.
“The choice is Kevin McCarthy or chaos,” Gingrich added.
Records show that there have been 14 instances of speaker elections that needed multiple ballots, with the last time that two or more votes were needed occurring back in 1923.
Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.)—the favorite of McCarthy’s Republican opponents—received 20 votes in each of Wednesday’s three ballots.
Donalds told Fox News after all the roll calls were done that he thinks McCarthy may yet find the path to victory.
Path to McCarthy Win
With House Republicans slated to open the third day of the new Congress much like the first two—with McCarthy vying to become House speaker—it remains unclear how the embattled GOP leader can win over right-flank conservatives who are trying to block his path to the gavel.
The conservative Freedom Caucus led the opposition to McCarthy, believing he’s neither conservative enough nor tough enough to take on Democrats.
McCarthy has already agreed to many of the demands of the Freedom Caucus, who have been pushing for rules changes and other concessions that give rank-and-file more influence in the legislative process.
The bottom line for the dissidents appears to be that they just don’t believe McCarthy would be the agent of change they want in the top job in the House to provide a strong counter to President Joe Biden’s and the Democrats’ agenda in Washington.
“I came to a broken and dysfunctional Congress to change it. Advancing the long-standing pecking order one notch has no prospect of doing that,” Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) posted on Twitter just before the first vote.
While it typically takes 218 votes—a majority of the House—to become speaker, that threshold can be reduced if members are absent or merely vote present.
If McCarthy could win 213 votes, and then persuade the remaining naysayers to simply vote present, he would be able to lower the threshold required under the rules to clinch the majority.
It’s a strategy that several former House speakers, including outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), used when confronting opposition but then winning the gavel with fewer than 218 votes.
“You get 213 votes, and the others don’t say another name, that’s how you can win,” McCarthy said Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Mark Tapscott, Madalina Vasiliu, Zachary Stieber, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.