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House to hold 12th vote in longest speaker contest in 164 years

Jan 6, 2023, 11:27 AM
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 05: U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) cheers in the House...
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 05: U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) cheers in the House Chamber during the third day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is meeting to vote for the next Speaker after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to earn more than 218 votes on several ballots; the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Originally Published: 06 JAN 23 05:07 ET
Updated: 06 JAN 23 12:57 ET

    (CNN) — Kevin McCarthy is locked in a fight for his political future as the California Republican attempts to win the votes he needs to become speaker of the US House of Representatives in what has now become the longest contest in 164 years. The House is holding a 12th vote.

McCarthy is locked in a fight for his political future as the California Republican attempts to win the votes he needs to become speaker of the US House of Representatives in what has now become the longest contest in 164 years.

Efforts to secure a deal with conservatives who oppose McCarthy have gained momentum over the past day, but it is still unclear if it will be enough to save his imperiled speaker’s bid.

McCarthy suffered a string of defeats on Thursday as the House took round after round of failed votes. The longer the fight drags on, the more dire it becomes for McCarthy as it risks further defections and a loss of confidence in the GOP leader.

“We’re going to make progress today. We’re going to shock you,” McCarthy told reporters as he arrived on Capitol Hill Friday morning, adding, “We’re going to get it done.”

McCarthy strikes positive tone on GOP conference call

McCarthy kicked off a GOP conference call on Friday morning by saying an agreement has still not been reached, sources tell CNN. But he tried to strike a more positive, gracious tone and laid out some of the details that have emerged in the negotiations, the sources added.

“I’m not telling you we have an agreement. We’re in a good position and have meetings,” McCarthy said, setting the tone for the call, according to sources.

McCarthy said committees need to be a microcosm of the conference, with more far-right Freedom Caucus members on all committees, a signal that promising committee posts have been a key part of the negotiations. Sources say McCarthy is describing this as equal representation.

But GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, a McCarthy ally and negotiator in this process, said on the call that no committee gavels have been promised and that talk of that is all rumors, sources told CNN.

McCarthy specifically thanked Texas Rep. Chip Roy for his role in the negotiations, a key holdout, and said he can tell that members are working hard and trying to work through their disagreements in good faith.

He said the rules package presented on Sunday is staying the same and that the only change is the threshold to allow one member to call for the motion to vacate, which he claims not to be worried about.

“Everyone on our call before January 3rd loved that package,” McCarthy said according to sources.

But the 20 GOP lawmakers against McCarthy are not on the conference call and are instead in their own meeting, two sources told CNN.

The call is ongoing, so the 20 lawmakers could jump on at any time.

Progress seen in talks

Talks are continuing among Republicans after negotiations aimed at winning over McCarthy opponents picked up steam on Thursday. Key House GOP negotiators said they were moving closer to an agreement that would bring McCarthy closer to the 218 votes he needs.

Several members said they were very close to a deal that in many ways is an attempt to rebuild frayed alliances and trust hampered by a harsh Tuesday morning conference meeting.

“The main things we’re talking about are a conservative agenda around spending and the nature of our Republican majority,” McHenry said. “That’s really the crux of the conversation. And that’s really the contours of it.”

McHenry said process changes and rule overhauls are part of the talks.

“Rules, structure and process dictate outcomes in this place, in a substantial way,” McHenry said. “So you want to make sure all those things are in place.”

He added: “What I’ve seen over the last 36 hours is immense amount of effort to take the emotion out of this and get into the substance of the challenges.”

McHenry said they are not discussing issues like specific committee assignments for holdouts, but talking about their agenda around issues like spending.

In one sign of forward momentum, GOP Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, one of the holdouts, told CNN after viewing a deal in Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer’s office Thursday evening: “This is changes that we want.”

But he also indicated that nothing was final. “This is round one. It’s on paper, which is a good thing,” he said.

Norman said the majority of the deal revolves around rule changes like a 72-hour rule to review bills, term limits, and open amendments. Norman said the deal did not address committee assignments.

CNN was first to report on Wednesday night that in a series of key concessions, McCarthy agreed to propose a rules change that would allow just one member to call for a vote to oust a sitting speaker, according to two sources familiar with the matter. McCarthy had initially proposed a five-member threshold, down from current conference rules that require half of the GOP to call for such a vote.

He also agreed to allow for more members of the Freedom Caucus to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee, which dictates how and whether bills come to the floor, and to vote on a handful of bills that are priorities for the holdouts, including proposing term limits on members and a border security plan.

‘I won’t be a weaker speaker’

It still remains to be seen, however, whether additional concessions and attempts at deal-making will be enough for McCarthy to secure the votes he needs.

On the concessions he’s made so far, McCarthy said Thursday evening that he’s not concerned about giving just one member the power to call for a vote to oust the speaker. “I’m very fine with that,” the California Republican said. “I’m not afraid. … I won’t be a weaker speaker.”

McCarthy also denied that any members would lose committee assignments and said there have been no negotiations that involved giving subcommittee chairmanships to dissidents.

Patience is wearing thin among lawmakers and moderates have also grown increasingly frustrated over the concessions, which many believe may make it harder for the new GOP majority to effectively govern, though they will likely still swallow them.

McCarthy was defiant earlier in the day on Thursday in the face of the stiff headwinds, saying that he will continue to face opposition until he reaches a deal with his detractors.

“It’s all going to be this way until an agreement comes,” he told CNN. “It’s easier if we’re able to all get an agreement together.”

Asked by CNN the point he would make a realization that the outcome won’t change, McCarthy said: “After I win.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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House to hold 12th vote in longest speaker contest in 164 years