On the Verge: McCarthy Loses Another (Two) Ballots, but Makes Progress

In the inimitable words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.”

Reagan short-circuited President Jimmy Carter with that line.

In this case, the self-professed political sons and daughters of Reagan continued to short-circuit themselves.

Specifically, Kevin McCarthy once again flailed on Friday in his historically tortured modern era bid for the speakership of the United States of Representatives.

“This is not about Kevin McCarthy,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Garcia, Republican of California. “I put no single human being on a pedestal. But the matters before us are of stupendous magnitude…”

Just as those faced, he noted, by Abraham Lincoln and, yes, Ronald Reagan.

He mentioned the southern border and fentanyl, the debt, and crime as those weighty challenges confronting our Democratic republic.

In his laundry list, somehow Garcia missed a solemn invocation of the “wobbly top” – his metaphor – of democracy that a mob made of the U.S. Capitol itself, site of a desecration two years ago on this exact date, incited by lame duck President Donald J. Trump.

“It’s not about a man in a suit in the halls of Washington,” said the California pol.

No, Garcia, it’s about a man in a minotaur headdress roaming the halls of Congress, wrapped in Confederate flags.

But let’s not talk about that.

“For the first time in over 200 years we are unable to organize and begin to work on behalf of


those who elected us to serve,” said U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, in putting the name of Hakeem Jeffries into nomination.

McCarthy did make some strides Friday, as he flipped 14 congresspeople – among them U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, Republican of Florida, himself a past candidate for the office of speaker, into his column.

The California congressman got significantly closer.

Still, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, put the name of fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, into nomination, as an alternative to McCarthy, thereby continuing the circus.

“Selflessness is not selling shares of yourself to the lobby corps and then doing their bidding at the expense of the American people,” said Gaetz.

Then U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, Republican of Colorado, put another name – U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern, Republican of Oklahoma – into nomination.

And so, yes, President Reagan, there it went… again.

And again.

He couldn’t afford to lose four, and he lost five.


First, on the twelfth ballot and then on the thirteenth.

If not the Gipper, McCarthy’s political hero – at least in terms of stamina – could, in fact, be a Jersey guy named William Pennington.

Mired now in a thirteenth ballot try at the speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives, McCarthy is not even in Pennington’s league.

In November 1858, Pennington was elected as a Republican to represent New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives during the 36th Congress. He persevered through a protracted election for speaker of the House of Representatives lasting 44 ballots over eight weeks (December 5, 1859, to February 1, 1860).”

U.S. Rep. Howell Cobb, Democrat of Georgia, 31st Congress (1849–1851), took 63 ballots.

U.S. Rep. Nathaniel Prentice Banks, Democrat of Massachusetts, 34th Congress (1855–1857) took even more: 133 ballots.

McCarthy last night failed to succeed with fewer ballots than Speaker Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, Democrat of Virgina, 26th Congress (1839–1841), who took 11 tries.

On Friday afternoon, the embattled Republican frontrunner for the speakership did feverishly and frantically hammer deals and showed progress.

Editor’s Note: InsiderNJ updated this story at 2:30 p.m., in the midst of the 13th ballot, when it became apparent that McCarthy again lacked the necessary votes (217) to become speaker.

4 p.m. Update: The House has adjourned until 10 p.m. 

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