The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday night to adjourn until 12:30 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, with the move coming as lawmakers have been unable to elect a new speaker for a second day in a row.
That vote came after House Republicans briefly reconvened at 8 p.m. Eastern following a flurry of meetings that attempted to find room for compromise.
Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy keeps hitting resistance in his push to become speaker, falling short of a majority in three rounds of voting on Wednesday afternoon and three earlier rounds of voting on Tuesday.
CNN and Axios reported Wednesday night that McCarthy offered significant concessions to the defecting Republicans but it was unclear if that would be enough to sway enough of their votes. “No deal yet,” McCarthy said after a closed-door meeting Wednesday night, according to the Associated Press, “But a lot of progress.”
The House must kick off the new congressional session with the election of a speaker, and it’s required to keep voting until one is chosen. There hasn’t been a need for multiple votes for a speaker’s election since 1923, when nine rounds of voting were required.
McCarthy can handle no more than four GOP defections given his party’s 222-212 majority, but more than that number have repeatedly opposed the California congressman.
In all three rounds of voting on Wednesday, 20 Republicans opposed him and voted instead for Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, while Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana voted “present” after backing McCarthy on Tuesday.
In Tuesday’s third vote, the number of Republican lawmakers voting against McCarthy rose to 20, up from 19 in the first two rounds. Those 20 backed GOP Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio on Tuesday, even as Jordan gave a speech in support of McCarthy and didn’t vote for himself.
Analysts have been warning that the tensions over what’s typically a ceremonial election could signal that the GOP-run House will be dysfunctional throughout 2023 —and that might affect markets eventually.
“If the House deadlock continues for weeks — or longer — the markets may have to worry about fiscal policy uncertainty,” said Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist at AGF Investments, in a note.
“If House Republicans can’t even elect a leader, how will they respond when a debt default crisis looms later this year?”
Former President Donald Trump offered support for McCarthy in a post on Wednesday morning on Truth Social, his social network.
“It’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” Trump wrote.
“DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB — JUST WATCH!”
Betting market PredictIt on Wednesday evening was giving McCarthy around a 42% chance of becoming speaker, while No. 2 House Republican Steve Scalise’s chances were around 38%.
Republicans have taken control of the House thanks to wins in November’s midterm elections, returning to power in that chamber after four years in the minority.
But the GOP’s hopes for a strong red wave two years into President Joe Biden’s term were dashed, as the party has claimed just a small House majority and Democrats have maintained their grip on the Senate.
McCarthy has been drawing opposition from about 10% of his fellow House Republicans in large part because he’s viewed as not having done enough to oppose Democrats — as well as being part of the Washington establishment.
From MarketWatch’s archives (November 2022): McCarthy’s House speaker bid may be in trouble due to Republican objections: ‘He’s not a true conservative’
GOP Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who heads the House Freedom Caucus, described voting against McCarthy as a vote against business as usual in Washington.
“Everybody came here because they said to their constituents, “This town is broken, and I want to fix it,’” Perry said, as he gave a speech Wednesday on the House floor.
“Well, how are you going to fix it, if you come to this town and just step right in line and keep doing the same things that everybody has done before?”
The Freedom Caucus, known for helping to bring about former Speaker John Boehner’s departure from his post in 2015, is made up of several dozen of the chamber’s most conservative Republicans.
U.S. stocks SPX, +0.75% DJIA, +0.40% closed with gains on Wednesday. The main equity gauges finished lower on Tuesday in 2023’s first session, after the S&P 500 benchmark fell 19% in 2022, hit by the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate hikes as the central bank tries to rein in inflation.