January 4, 2023 GOP deadlocked over House speaker vote

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 9:59 p.m. ET, January 4, 2023
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11:56 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

McCarthy allies want to adjourn for the day but he may not have the votes to delay a fourth ballot, sources say

From CNN's Manu Raju, Lauren Fox and Melanie Zanona 

Kevin McCarthy arrives at the US Capitol on Wednesday.
Kevin McCarthy arrives at the US Capitol on Wednesday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and his allies are holding active discussions about adjourning the House until Thursday — but they are uncertain to go that route because they may not have the votes to pull it off, according to multiple sources.  

McCarthy and his team are fearful that if they go to a fourth ballot, they could lose more votes, something that could undercut their claims of regaining momentum. That is why they have discussed adjourning the House until tomorrow — but to do that, they need 218 votes, which they don't have. 

Their hope is that furious negotiations that have happened since yesterday evening through this morning have peeled away some of the no-votes and given McCarthy forward momentum ahead of a critical fourth ballot. But, he is still unlikely to get 218 votes on that ballot to win the speakership. 

Here's why a vote to adjourn might fail: Voting to adjourn would require 218 votes, and Democratic sources say they would actively whip against a motion to adjourn. Plus some Republicans will likely vote against it as well.

If they don’t adjourn, the House would vote on the fourth ballot — and McCarthy’s team is nervous about the prospect of losing more votes and killing any chance of regaining momentum.

11:05 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

What can happen in the House without a speaker? Not a lot 

From CNN's Jack Forrest

US Rep. Kevin Mullin, a Democrat from California, sits with his children during one of Tuesday's votes.
US Rep. Kevin Mullin, a Democrat from California, sits with his children during one of Tuesday's votes. (Alex Brandon/AP)

House Republicans' failure to elect a speaker on Tuesday after multiple rounds of voting isn't just denying the GOP a leader — it's holding up much of the functioning of the chamber.

The position is traditionally filled on the first day of a new Congress, followed by the swearing in of new members, but with the floor fight spilling into Wednesday, members-elect have yet to take the oath of office. 

Incoming lawmakers arrived on the floor on Tuesday with their families in tow, expecting to pose for a photo and get started with their first day as lawmakers, but were instead greeted with a several-hour wait as the speaker election went to multiple rounds of balloting — the first time that's happened in 100 years.

Every new Congress must pass a new set of House rules, so without a speaker to oversee adoption of those rules, none will technically exist.  

Without an approved House Rules package by the end of business on Jan. 13, committees won't be able to pay staff, according to a letter sent last week by the committee in charge of administrative matters, which was first reported by Politico and obtained by CNN.

The same memo warned that student loan payments for committee staff wouldn't be disbursed if a rules package isn't adopted by mid-January.

It's just one of the many ways a battle over the next speaker could paralyze the House and the Republican majority from operating efficiently in their opening days, with some of the harshest penalties falling on rank-and-file staffers.

For committees whose chairs aren't known, they will be headed up in the interim by the committee's senior-most Republican who also served on the panel in the last Congress, according to the letter sent last week. 

But without fully functioning committees, to amend and approve bills before they make their way to the floor for a vote, there will be little legislating. That means Republicans may also have to wait before tackling some of their most pressing priorities, including investigations into President Joe Biden's administration and family. 

Outside of the speaker's role effectively running the House, they are also in the line of succession for president — raising questions about what happens if there's no one in the position that's second in line for the presidency after the vice president. 

The Senate president pro tempore is third in line. Sen. Patty Murray was elected to that role Tuesday, making the Democrat from Washington the first woman to hold the position.

11:06 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Here's what House Republicans are saying McCarthy risks if he gives in to his detractors

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer and Manu Raju

If Kevin McCarthy decides to cut deals with those opposing his speakership, he risks alienating — and possibly losing the votes — of some of his Republican supporters in the process.

Here's what some GOP lawmakers who support McCarthy are saying about the risks McCarthy potentially faces moving forward.

Rep. Mike Waltz told CNN Wednesday McCarthy risks losing votes if he gives in to his detractors’ demands – particularly on committee assignments.

“I think if he gives any more he’s gonna have a problem with the rest of us,” said Waltz who supports McCarthy for speaker. “Where this goes, I don’t know.” 

Waltz also called the situation "unacceptable," adding that it's becoming about "personal vendettas [and] personal agendas."

“They're opposing the rest of us and our will. At the end of the day, you take a vote. You make your case, you win or lose and you move forward," he added.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, a key moderate in the GOP conference and McCarthy ally, warned that McCarthy can’t give in to many more of his detractors’ demands. 

“Kevin McCarthy can't go somewhere that the conference isn't willing to go,” he said. “He, I think, is firmly aware of the fact that you're not going to have 10% of the conference dictate all of the terms of engagement and the rules to the other 90%.”

Johnson added that “This is not a great look for the Republican Party.” 

“Let's be honest, it would have been better if we would have rolled into the 118th Congress, elected a speaker and gotten on to dealing with the border,” he acknowledged.

10:50 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Biden slams House Republicans: "It's not a good look ... I hope they get their act together"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Joe Biden meets with reporters before leaving for Kentucky on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden meets with reporters before leaving for Kentucky on Wednesday. (Susan Walsh/AP)

President Joe Biden reacted publicly for the first time to drama in the House GOP after Kevin McCarthy failed thrice to get the votes needed to secure the speakership, saying it’s “embarrassing” and “not a good look” on the world stage.

“It’s not my problem. I think it’s embarrassing the way it’s taking so long,” he told reporters as he departed the White House for Kentucky on Wednesday. 

“How do you think this looks to the rest of the world? Coming out of, you know – the first time we’re really getting through the whole history related to Jan. 6, things are settling out, and now, for the first time in 100 years? I really mean it – I know you know international relations. It’s not a good look, it’s not a good thing. This is the United States of America and I hope they get their act together,” the president said.

Biden also said the floor fight affects Congress' — not his — ability to govern effectively.

Outside of the White House, Biden was asked, "How worried would you be if the stalemate in the House goes on and after today, about the ability of Congress and you to govern?" to which he responded, "Not me — Congress to govern."

As Biden departed the White House for a rare joint appearance alongside Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he highlighted Wednesday’s trip to Kentucky, saying that it is aimed at “demonstrating that we can get things done.”

11:57 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Kevin McCarthy arrives at the Capitol: "I think we’ll get to 218"

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Nicky Robertson

Kevin McCarthy walks through the Capitol rotunda on Wednesday.
Kevin McCarthy walks through the Capitol rotunda on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Rep. Kevin McCarthy told reporters “I think we’ll get to 218,” as he entered the Capitol Wednesday. 

He said, “We’re talking.” 

Remember: A nominee for speaker needs 218 votes, but the number required could change if members withhold their votes. The House can't kick off the new Congress or swear in new members until a speaker is elected.

McCarthy failed to garner enough votes to win the House speakership Tuesday after three rounds of voting.

10:46 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Pelosi says House members should be sworn in – even without a speaker

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Nicky Robertson

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks to reporters on Wednesday.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talks to reporters on Wednesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN that House of Representatives members should be sworn in — even if a speaker is not chosen yet — so their families can witness the moment and not have to wait around the Capitol all day.

“The best thing to do for the families is for them to have somebody; the dean, swear in the speaker, somebody swear in the members so at least their children will be there when they get sworn in,” she said.  

When asked how members can be sworn in without a speaker, Pelosi responded that “the speaker is sworn in without a speaker, so the other members can be.”

“Thank God they weren’t the majority on Jan. 6,” Pelosi added. “We had to be organized to stave off what was happening.”

Pelosi's request comes after there were dozens of children on the House floor and in the speaker's lobby off the floor throughout the day, waiting on their parents to get sworn in. 

One teenager could be heard asking her new member dad if she'd be able to "miss school" again, and at one point Rep.-elect Hillary Scholten's sons actually stood to vote with her for the speaker. 

The newly elected Democrat from Michigan joked that she's always told her boys everything could be a memory — and that waiting all day on the floor with their mom certainly was one.

9:45 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

McCarthy deputies trying to negotiate as allies warn of time crunch, according to sources

From CNN's Jake Tapper and Lauren Fox

Kevin McCarthy is followed by reporters as he heads to the House floor on Tuesday.
Kevin McCarthy is followed by reporters as he heads to the House floor on Tuesday. (Susan Walsh/AP)

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has empowered Republican Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, Garret Graves, French Hill, Patrick McHenry and Guy Reschenthaler to try to negotiate a deal, sources tell CNN, as McCarthy looks for 218 votes to become speaker.

Meanwhile, Republican allies of McCarthy are beginning to fear that he may not be able to pull off his gamble for speaker if the fight goes much longer. One member who has been backing McCarthy told CNN that if McCarthy can't get the votes for speaker, there is growing fear he'll be too weakened to do anything to legislate, making it possible that another candidate may need to come forward. 

"He probably has another 24 hours to get an agreement. If he can’t negotiate to get an agreement on speaker, it means he won’t be able to negotiate and get to 218 on anything controversial. Maybe nobody else can either, but he certainly can’t," the member said, "I certainly hope he gets to 218."

The same member said former President Donald Trump's statement urging support for McCarthy was basically a wash, and while more helpful then if he had blasted McCarthy, it wasn't expected to move the needle.

Another member warned that after Tuesday, it's clear that the opposition to McCarthy is personal, meaning there may be little that he can do to turn the tide at this point. 

Asked if the Trump statement could be a difference maker, the person conceded they were doubtful. 

10:57 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

Hakeem Jeffries poised to become first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress

From CNN's Shawna Mizelle

US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries sits in the House chamber on Tuesday.
US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries sits in the House chamber on Tuesday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is expected to make history as the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress as the 118th Congress convenes in Washington.

The New York Democrat will almost certainly lead the minority party, once the prolonged floor fight for House speaker comes to a conclusion. He would succeed Nancy Pelosi, who served as speaker in the prior session of Congress when Democrats were in the majority. In addition to being the first Black lawmaker to attain such a position, he also would be the first person voted to lead House Democrats to be born after the end of World War II.

Once the speaker is elected and lawmakers are sworn in, a formal announcement of party leaders takes place – with Jeffries poised to become minority leader at that time since Republicans will control the House majority in the new Congress. However, there is still time for Republicans to fumble the gavel, giving Jeffries a shot, if near zero, at attaining the speakership.

Jeffries told reporters Tuesday he is not willing at this point to help Republicans elect a speaker.

“We are looking for a willing partner to solve problems for the American people, not save the Republicans from their dysfunction,” Jeffries said.

His background: Jeffries was born in Brooklyn, New York, and he started his career in politics after being elected to the New York State Assembly in 2006. In 2012, he was elected to New York’s 8th congressional district, which includes parts of Brooklyn and Queens.

During his time in Congress, Jeffries has pushed for policing reform, including a national ban on chokeholds following the death of Eric Garner, a Black man who died in 2014 after being held in the restraining move. He was also instrumental in the passage of the First Step Act and co-sponsored the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that passed the House but failed in the Senate.

Read more here.

9:08 a.m. ET, January 4, 2023

GOP representative says he expects another House speaker vote today

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Nicky Robertson

GOP Rep. Tom Emmer, who will likely be the next House majority whip, told CNN that he does believe there will be another vote for House speaker on Wednesday. 

When asked if he is positive there will be a vote at noon ET, he responded, “Yes.”

Pressed on if they would chose to adjourn instead of another speaker vote, Emmer said, “I don’t know if that’s possible.”