Kevin McCarthy late Friday failed to succeed in his 14th bid for House speaker after indicating confidence in a victory and after two of his GOP opponents appeared to clear the way for a victory by voting “present.”
When the dust settled, McCarthy had 216 votes but needed 217 for a majority of those voting. Two of his most vocal opponents, Rep.-elects Matt Gaetz of Florida and Lauren Boebert of California, voted “present” which was aimed at lowering the minimum majority needed to win.
But with only 432 votes cast, McCarthy needed 217 to clinch it and fell short by a single vote.
The result seemed to surprise McCarthy and his team, many of whom started an intense discussion with Gaetz in an apparent attempt to sway him to change his vote to one in support of McCarthy.
But when that failed, McCarthy could be heard saying, “we’ll do it again.”
The shock finale came late Friday after McCarthy had already picked off 15 of his opponents with rules changes, aimed at changing the way the House is run, that were demanded by hardline members of the House Freedom Caucus.
Following the vote, Republicans asked to adjourn until Monday to regroup, but more than a dozen Republicans voted against it and the House stayed in session.
As the result became clear, and angry Rep.-elect Mike Rogers of Alabama could be seen getting in Gaetz’s face and had to be pulled away. At one point, McCarthy himself approached Gaetz and appeared to be lobbying for his vote.
Earlier in the evening, McCarthy said “yes” when asked if he would have the votes to win the speaker’s gavel in the late Friday vote. “I’ll have the votes,” he said.
When asked to elaborate how he knew that, he said, “Because I counted.”
Four Republican lawmakers made it harder on McCarthy by continuing to vote for other Republicans. Reps.-elect Andy Biggs of Arizona and Bob Good of Virginia voted for Rep.-elect Jim Jordan of Ohio, while Reps.-elect Elijah Crane of Arizona and Matt Rosendale of Montana voted for Biggs.