Kevin McCarthy is facing mounting pressure to end the impasse surrounding his vulnerable speaker candidate after two straight days of failed votes.
But even after proposing big concessions to his tough opponents late Wednesday, it remains unclear whether the California Republican will be able to win the 218 votes he needs to win the gavel and leave lawmakers’ patience after while the fight drags on.
The House is expected to reconvene Thursday at 12 p.m. ET. It’s unclear if a seventh vote on McCarthy’s speakership will then take place, or if Republicans will request an adjournment. McCarthy is wary of additional votes showing 20 members are against him and wants to demonstrate some forward momentum, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.
Republican holdouts meet Thursday morning at 8 a.m. ET, according to Rep. Warren Davidson, who supports McCarthy.
“I think after that they will talk to Leader McCarthy and hopefully make a deal,” the Ohio Republican told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on CNN This Morning.
Still, Davidson conceded, “he may never make it to 218.”
There are early signs that negotiations are making headway as McCarthy and his allies seek to crush opposition from a bloc of Conservatives.
In a series of new concessions first reported by CNN on Wednesday night, McCarthy agreed to propose a rule change that would allow only one member to request a vote to oust an incumbent speaker, according to two sources familiar with the matter. McCarthy originally proposed a five-member threshold, which deviates from current conference rules that require half of the GOP to require such a vote.
He also agreed to allow more members of the Freedom Caucus to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee, which dictates how and if bills have a say, and to vote on a handful of bills that hold out priorities, including proposals for a tenure membership restrictions and a border security plan.
Republican sources say even if McCarthy’s bids were accepted, it still wouldn’t get him the 218 votes he needs to become Speaker. While these concessions could win some new support, other opponents have raised other concerns that have yet to be fully addressed.
McCarthy said Wednesday night that there was still no agreement to end the standoff, but that progress had been made. “I think it’s probably for the best if people do some more work through it,” McCarthy said after the House adjourned.
McCarthy has already made some concessions to his opponents, but so far his efforts have not been enough.
But sources said Wednesday’s talks between McCarthy allies and holdouts were the most productive and serious yet. And in a mark of breakthrough, a McCarthy-hosted super-PAC agreed not to play safe seats in an open Republican primary — one of the big demands conservatives had been calling for, but one McCarthy had resisted up to that point.
Texas Rep. Chip Roy, one of the Conservatives who voted against McCarthy’s bid for speaker, told GOP leaders he believes he can get 10 holdouts to come along if the ongoing negotiations go through, GOP sources said who are familiar with the internal discussions, etc. There are other critics who may be willing to vote present.
But even if those negotiations prove successful and 10 lawmakers switch to McCarthy’s column — which is far from certain — McCarthy won’t get the 218 votes needed to win the speakership, so he still has more work to do .
McCarthy also met separately Wednesday with the freshmen elected who voted against him, sources told CNN.
During the meeting, McCarthy reiterated some of the things he had already promised and went into more detail about those concessions.
McCathy’s direct contact with the freshmen offers another insight into his strategy for winning over the holdouts.
Incoming House Majority Whip Tom Emmer commented that the negotiations had been “very, very constructive”.
“There were quite a number of members who were involved with that, and there are now some people who are sitting down and talking about this discussion to see where they want to go with it next,” the Minnesota Republican said.
A moderate Republican told CNN Thursday morning that they weren’t happy about the concessions, although they were willing to have “discussions” about them.
The fear is that lowering the threshold for a vote to oust the speaker to one member will make governing issues like the debt limit and funding all but impossible.
“I don’t like the rules, but I’m willing to hear discussions. I think they are a mistake for the conference. This handful of people want a weak speaker with a majority of four votes. I’m afraid the public won’t like what they see from the GOP,” the member said.
The battle for the speakership, which began on Tuesday, the first day of the 118th Congress, has thrown the GOP majority of the new House of Representatives into chaos and undermined the party’s agenda.
As the fight dragged on, the situation for McCarthy’s political future grew worse, as even some of his Republican allies began to fear that the House GOP leader might not be able to play his game as a public speaker if the fight was still ongoing takes much longer.
McCarthy has come up short in six rounds of voting so far. The final GOP tally for the sixth vote, which took place Wednesday, was 201 for McCarthy, 20 for Florida Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and one “present” vote.
The house will remain paralyzed until this standoff is resolved. This is the first time since 1923 that a Speaker election will be held in multiple ballots.
To be elected Speaker, a candidate must win a majority of members voting for a specific person on the House floor. That’s 218 votes if no member skips the vote or votes present.
House Republicans won 222 seats in the new Congress, for McCarthy to reach 218 he can only afford to lose four GOP votes.
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