Hard-right Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs mounted a long-shot bid against GOP leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday in the race to become the next House speaker, before shifting his support to Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan after the first round of voting.
Biggs peeled off 10 votes in the first ballot. Nine other votes were cast for other candidates, and together, they were enough to deny McCarthy the 218 votes necessary to win the speakership outright. In second and third ballots, Biggs put his weight behind Jordan, uniting with 19 conservative defectors against McCarthy.
The House adjourned Tuesday night after McCarthy was rebuked on the third ballot, and the chamber is expected to return Wednesday to resume voting for speaker.
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McCarthy has defeated the Arizona congressman before – by a resounding vote of 188 to 31 in November when the House Republican conference voted for McCarthy to be its leader.
But despite losing to McCarthy in the November internal House GOP election, Biggs announced he would run for speaker in early December. “I’m running for Speaker to break the establishment,” Biggs wrote on Twitter at the time. “Kevin McCarthy was created by, elevated by, and maintained by the establishment.”
Biggs was just reelected to his fourth term in the House, representing Arizona’s 5th District which lies on the eastern outskirts of Maricopa County outside of Phoenix. He served as the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus – a group of some of the most right-leaning members in the House – from 2019 to 2021.
Biggs was also one of several Republican lawmakers referred to the House Ethics Committee by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol after the members did not comply with the panel’s subpoenas.
Biggs called the referral a “political stunt” in response to the news.
“This referral is their final political stunt. It’s inappropriate to use the House Ethics Committee—a committee with more pressing matters to attend to—to help reach the J6 Committee’s pre-determined conclusions,” he said in a statement.
It’s the first time since 1923 that the speaker’s race has gone to multiple ballots.
To be elected speaker, a candidate needs to win a majority of members who vote for a specific person on the House floor. That amounts to 218 votes if no member skips the vote or votes “present.”
Republicans will hold 222 seats as they take over the House majority, leaving a razor-thin margin for McCarthy, who can’t afford to lose more than a handful of votes.
CNN’s Clare Foran, Melanie Zanona, Tierney Sneed and Sonnet Swire contributed to this report.