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Kevin McCarthy falls short of majority in first House speaker vote, forcing second round

The vote for House Speaker will go to a second ballot for the first time in about 100 years as Rep. Kevin McCarthy lost more Republican votes than he could afford to reach a majority on the first ballot.

McCarthy held a majority of GOP support on the first ballot, but he needs a majority of the full House – and given Republicans’ slim majority, he could only afford to lose four Republicans. He lost that multiple times over. In the final vote count, he lost 19 votes, falling far short of the 218 needed, and Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries received more votes than he did but also fell short of a majority. 

During the House GOP conference meeting Tuesday morning, McCarthy raised his voice as he made an impassioned plea to Republicans, telling them he has “earned” the speakership, two sources familiar with the meeting told CBS News.

McCarthy met with the Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus on Monday night, telling reporters on Tuesday night that the meeting was “intense,” but he would not be held hostage by them and he was prepared for a battle on the House floor. 

“Well, that’s not about America, and I will always fight to put the American people first, not a few individuals that want something for themselves,” McCarthy said. “We may have a battle on the floor.  But the battle is for the conference and the country, and that’s fine with me.”

House And Senate Convene For The 118th Congress On Capitol Hill
U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) receives applause from fellow Representatives at the start of start of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar pointedly said “House Democrats are united” as he nominated Jeffries to be leader. And Republican Rep. Andy Biggs, of Arizona, was also nominated to be speaker, winning several votes in the first round.

Members cannot take their oaths of office until the House has a new speaker. Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi received a bipartisan standing ovation as she gaveled in the meeting, her last act as leader. She announced after Election Day that she would not be seeking a leadership role, paving the way for a new generation of Democrats to take over, led by Jeffries. 

 — Melissa Quinn contributed to this report. 

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