Kevin McCarthy on Friday picked up several new votes from House Freedom Caucus in a sign he might be turning the tide in his quest to be House speaker, but still fell just short of the votes he needs.
In the 12th round of voting, McCarthy captured 14 new votes for speaker from Republicans who had voted against him or present all week.
McCarthy flipped 14 votes to his side for the first time in the first Friday vote. Reps.-elect Dan Bishop, R-NC; Joshua Brecheen, R-Okla.; Mike Cloud, R-Texas; Andrew Clyde, R-Ga.; Byron Donalds, R-Fla.; Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla.; Mary Miller, R-Ill.; Ralph Norman, R-SC; Scott Perry, R-Pa.; and Chip Roy, R-Texas; and Rep. Keith Self, R-Texas; Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; and Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn. switched their vote to McCarthy from another candidate.
McCarthy also won the vote of Rep.-elect Victoria Spartz of Indiana, who supports McCarthy but had been voting “present” in the last several votes.
Those pickups left the final tally at 213 votes for McCarthy – his highest mark yet, but still short of what he needs to win the speaker’s gavel if all members are present and voting. His count would have been at least one vote higher but for Republicans who were absent today for medical and family reasons.
With 431 voting, a majority was 216 votes, which means McCarthy fell just three votes shy of victory.
The dramatic turnaround came just hours after McCarthy’s team introduced a rules package for the 118th Congress aimed at changing the way the House is run that were demanded by hard-line member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Those changes include allowing just one member to make a motion to vote for a new speaker, guaranteed votes on term limits and a balanced budget, and ensuring members of the House Freedom Caucus are allowed to participate in key House committees, including the Rules Committee that sets the terms of debate and voting on legislation.
Lawmakers and staff told Fox News just before the vote that a final deal has not yet been reached, but that they were in a “good spot.”
But seven Republicans still voted against McCarthy in the 12th round, which means further talks and possibly further concessions will be needed before McCarthy can win a majority. Three voted for Rep.-elect Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, and four voted for Rep.-elect Jim Jordan of Ohio.
The seven remaining GOP holdouts are Reps.-elect Andy Biggs of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Elijah Crane of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Bob Good of Virginia, Andy Harris of Maryland and Matt Rosendale of Montana.
McCarthy’s team will be focusing on those members for possible new concessions, but another option is to see if some of them might eventually agree to vote “present.”
Voting “present” would count as a non-vote and lower the minimum number of votes he would need to secure a majority.
Republicans said it was likely that the work of convincing holdout lawmakers would continue into the weekend. Rep.-elect Norman agreed that work over the weekend would likely be needed. When asked about the possibility of weekend work, Norman said, “probably, yes.”