WASHINGTON — House Republicans once again rejected Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in the 12th failed speaker vote this week.
But McCarthy peeled off several defectors from the small group of right-wing Republicans who have refused to go along with the rest of the party in supporting him for the leadership post.
The flipped votes, which included ardent McCarthy opponents such as Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), represent significant progress from McCarthy. But as long as just five Republicans hold out, the chamber will remain leaderless and unable to function.
The 14 Republicans who flipped and now support McCarthy are Reps. Dan Bishop (N.C.), Josh Brecheen (Okla.), Michael Cloud (Texas), Andrew Clyde (Ga.), Byron Donalds (Fla.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), Mary Miller (Ill.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Andy Ogles (Tenn.), Chip Roy (Texas), Keith Self (Texas), Victoria Spartz (Ind.) and Perry.
That leaves seven GOP holdouts. They are Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Andy Harris (Md.) and Matt Rosendale (Mont.).
McCarthy’s opponents insisted that he would continue to fail.
“Mr. McCarthy is not going to be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives today,” Rosendale said on his way to the House chamber Friday morning.
McCarthy has tried to win over his haters with a package of parliamentary changes and preferential committee seating. Several of the members who changed their votes pointed to the new rules in brief statements as they announced their votes.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), one of many former auto dealers in the House, likened the Freedom Caucus holdouts to finicky car customers.
“Oftentimes you trying to sell somebody something and you get to their price and you say, ‘Okay, fine, we’ll get it ready for you.’ And they say, ‘Well, that was fine, but I want something else,’” Kelly said.
McCarthy and his allies seem to have boosted the pressure on the holdouts. When Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) delivered a speech nominating Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for speaker, dozens of Republicans stood up and walked out of the chamber.
The rules changes would include empowering individual lawmakers to call for a vote of no confidence in the speaker, making McCarthy’s life difficult if he ultimately wins the job.
Throughout the week, McCarthy’s backers have tried to downplay what a colossal disaster it’s been for him, his party and for organizing the House at all. The House can’t conduct any business until it elects a speaker, including creating committees or even approving rules that lay out what people can wear on the House floor.
“Sure, it looks messy,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said Wednesday as he stood up to nominate McCarthy for speaker for the fourth time. “Democracy is messy.”
By Thursday, as McCarthy headed into his tenth round of being rejected for speaker, Luna stood up to nominate him again. With a stern tone, she said she needed “to clarify” something for Democrats.
“What you’re seeing with this discussion does not mean that we are dysfunctional,” she said.