House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy was denied the speaker's gavel in the first three votes of the new Republican majority on Tuesday, making it the first multiple-vote speaker election in the House in a century.
In a series of dramatic, televised votes on the House floor, McCarthy of California received support from a resounding majority of his GOP Conference, but it fell short of the 218 needed to win a simple majority of the 434 House members present.
He was opposed by 19 conservatives in the first two voting rounds, but by the third round, that number had risen to 20.
Voting must continue until a candidate secures 218 votes, or a simple majority of the voting members, following house rules.
If Republicans cannot agree on a new speaker, all House business, including floor votes, committee hearings, and other legislative activities, will be suspended until a new speaker is elected.
The former Freedom Caucus chairman Andy Biggs, R-Arizona, who was McCarthy's principal opponent during the first vote on Tuesday, was initially backed by the majority of conservatives.
Despite Jordan's requests for Republicans to support McCarthy, the whole group sided with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, during the second and third rounds.
Democrats have voted in favor of minority leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
During the first vote of the new Congress, lawmakers rose as their names were announced and expressed their preference for the speaker.
The House moved on to the second round of voting just after 2:00 p.m. ET, with Jordan recommending McCarthy as speaker.
Jordan stated, "Kevin McCarthy is the best candidate to lead us, in my opinion. We ought to band together.”
Jordan was nonetheless suggested for the job by Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.
"I'm voting for him and nominating him," Gaetz said.
The third round of voting, which began just after 4 p.m., saw Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida, back Jordan among conservatives.
Donalds, who had previously voted for McCarthy, explained his change of heart by stating that Jordan would make a "great speaker" and that Republicans should embrace the reality that "Kevin doesn't have the votes."
House Republicans, who won back the majority in the midterm elections in November, are off to a poor start in the new Congress because they are divided and lack agreement on who should head the party.
McCarthy engaged in a week-long impasse with a small number of Republicans affiliated with former President Donald Trump and vowed to stick together to prevent McCarthy from becoming speaker. The votes on Tuesday ended their deadlock.
Given how thin the GOP's new 222-212 majority is, McCarthy has to lose only four votes to win the presidency.
McCarthy was urged to quit so that another candidate might run in his place by five conservatives known as the "Never Kevins," led by Biggs and Gaetz. They said they would never support McCarthy.
Republicans have been hurling insults and threats at their fellow party members in recent days. McCarthy's ally Rep. Kat Cammack, a Republican from Florida, said that his opponents were just opposing him to bolster their campaign finances.
Cammack questioned, "Who is collecting money by defying authority while conveniently forgetting that Kevin McCarthy financed their campaigns, that he visited their districts, and held events for them? And now they're sending out emails asking for $5 because they're defying authority and emptying the swamp. Kevin McCarthy will be the speaker of the House, regardless of whether it's on the first or 97th vote.”
Gaetz said to reporters before the vote on Tuesday, "It is true that Mr. McCarthy and I often have trust issues because of the way his opinions and attitudes shift like the sands under your feet.”
In a 90-minute closed-door conference meeting before the vote on Tuesday, McCarthy made a passionate plea for unity while defending his leadership position.