By Christopher Kane  |  Washington Blade
Courtesy National LGBT Media Association

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Updated: At 8:25 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the House voted 216-214 to adjourn until noon on Thursday

The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned Wednesday afternoon with plans to reconvene at 8 p.m. after Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) failed to win over conservative rebels in his bid for the speakership for the sixth time over the past two days.

With the GOP’s narrow control of the chamber, McCarthy can only afford to lose the support of a handful of Republican members, far fewer than the 20 or so who have declined to vote for him in ballot after ballot.

Until a speaker is seated, the House will not be able to swear in newly elected members or move on legislation, committee assignments, rules changes or pay congressional staffers.

Not since 1923 has a speaker not been chosen in the first floor vote – a sign of the extent to which the GOP is now in disarray, incapable of resolving rifts in the caucus to unite behind a leader despite how costly the nearly unprecedented delay might be for their legislative agenda.

As he prepared to depart for Kentucky on Wednesday, President Joe Biden addressed the fracas. “It’s a little embarrassing,” he said to the White House press pool before boarding Marine One for the short trip to Joint Base Andrews. He castigated the GOP noting that the process is “taking so long, and the way they are dealing with each other.”

The ultraconservative GOP members in opposition to McCarthy or who were on the fence in the weeks leading up to the election held fast despite pressure from some lawmakers with whom they are otherwise ideologically aligned, such as Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio).

Not even former President Trump was able to change the hearts and minds of the “No-McCarthy” opposition with his Truth social post early Wednesday morning urging Republican lawmakers to unite behind McCarthy, a message that was reportedly circulated to their congressional staffs.

It appeared to have no effect. Speaking on the House floor during the fifth vote on Wednesday, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) urged her “favorite president” to instead tell McCarthy to drop out of the race.

For his part, McCarthy was defiant – or, at least, he was during a closed-door conference ahead of the first ballot on Tuesday during which he reportedly told colleagues: “I earned this job.”

McCarthy had made major concessions to corral more support, including a rule change that would allow for five GOP members to call a vote to vacate the speakership at any time. The Republican leader had also welcomed input from the conference’s most conservative members leading up to the speakership election.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, framed the failed ballots as evidence that the GOP caucus is engaged in thoughtful debate about how best to use their narrowly won control of the House, telling his audience on Tuesday: “If you prefer real debate about issues that actually matter, it’s pretty refreshing to see it.”

Republican members echoed Carlson’s message on Wednesday, though it was not exactly clear what any ideological or policy-related disagreements might be.

Greene told reporters on Tuesday that several members sought to condition their support for McCarthy’s speakership on winning committee assignments and other concessions for themselves.

The congresswoman said McCarthy had embraced the legislative agenda put forth by the most right-wing members of the Republican conference, adding that some had let their personal feelings about the GOP leader cloud their judgment at the expense of the party.

With each of the six floor votes, Democrats were unanimous in their support for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who will succeed Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) as the party’s leader in the House.

Jeffries is the first Black member elected to lead either party in either of the two chambers of Congress. Pelosi, who was the first woman to serve in the role, stepped down from leadership as planned on Tuesday. She is regarded by many as the most effective speaker in recent history.

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