Republicans failed three times on Tuesday to elect a House speaker, but they’ll convene the House again at noon Wednesday to try again.
Tuesday’s failure marked the first time the House failed on the first vote for speaker since 1923, which was the only instance since the Civil War.
But it was more than a historical oddity. It forced a hasty adjournment aimed at giving GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s camp and members of the House Freedom Caucus a chance to see if they can find some way forward.
By late Tuesday night, more than a dozen pizzas were wheeled into McCarthy’s office, a sign of ongoing strategizing on how to deliver at least 218 votes to McCarthy.
The would-be speaker topped out at 203 during the day, compared to the 19 and 20 votes collected by the preferred alternative of GOP hardliners, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
The House GOP caucus was set to meet early Wednesday morning in the hopes of finding some kind of agreement.
Agreement between the two GOP camps may end up being a necessary ingredient if a way forward is to be found. Tuesday showed how little progress could be made when both sides were content to force a series of votes and hope the other side would give in. There was evidence early Tuesday that turning the vote into a game of chicken wasn’t going to be enough.
McCarthy told reporters prior to a Tuesday morning meeting that ‘we are going to have a good day.’ But the meeting marked the start of a sharp conflict in the party. A spokesperson for Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., confirmed to Fox News Digital that she muttered ‘this is bulls—‘ under her breath as McCarthy explained how he has earned the right to lead the caucus.
At that point, even McCarthy knew he wouldn’t win the vote on the first try but said he was in it for the long haul.
‘I’m not going anywhere,’ McCarthy told reporters ahead of the first vote. ‘We did have an intense conference, and it’s intense for a purpose.’
He added to reporters that he didn’t mind setting a record for the number of votes needed to win the gavel, and soon after noon, that prediction came true.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., nominated McCarthy the first time.
‘Under Kevin McCarthy’s leadership, House Republicans crafted a bold vision to put America back on track,’ Stefanik said. ‘No one in this body has worked harder for this Republican majority than Kevin McCarthy.’
But Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., was nominated as an alternative Republican candidate to McCarthy in the first round, which followed his challenge to McCarthy in a GOP conference meeting late last year.
Nineteen Republicans voted for a member besides McCarthy in the first round: ten for Biggs, six for Jordan and three for others.
Jordan nominated McCarthy in the second round in a show of solidarity. But Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., then nominated Jordan.
‘Maybe the right person for the job of speaker of the House isn’t someone who wants it so bad,’ Gaetz said. ‘Maybe the right person for the job of speaker of the House isn’t someone who has sold shares of himself for more than a decade to get it.’
Nineteen Republicans voted for Jordan in the second round.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., nominated McCarthy in the third round of votes, but the result was slightly worse for McCarthy. Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., joined the 19 Republicans in favor of Jordan in the third round. The flip, he said, was because McCarthy does not have the votes.
‘The reality is Rep. Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have the votes,’ Donalds tweeted after his decision. ‘I committed my support to him publicly and for two votes on the House floor. Two hundred and eighteen is the number, and currently, no one is there. Our conference needs to recess and huddle and find someone or work out the next steps.’
But McCarthy’s opponents are so far facing the same problem. They have yet to win anything above 20 votes, and McCarthy’s backers appear to be holding firm.
There is no precedent in House history for a nominee for speaker to withdraw, Fox News was told. If history is any guide, McCarthy and his allies will have to find the right combination of concessions to bring along 15 hesitant Republicans, or lose to a candidate that can somehow emerge from the infighting as a consensus candidate.
Democrats appeared to be enjoying the spectacle and delivered unanimous support for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., three times in a row. By the time Jeffries was nominated for the third time, Democrats chanted ‘Hakeem’ over and over, enjoying a unity that is so far eluding the GOP.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Tyler Olson contributed to this report.