Speed Reads

you don't have the votes

AOC says Democrats are 'open' to deal with McCarthy. Jeffries says Dems won't save GOP 'from their dysfunction.'

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters Tuesday night that he will not drop his bid to become House speaker, despite failing to win the gavel in three rounds of voting on Tuesday, the chaotic first day of the 218th Congress.

McCarthy needs 218 votes to win the speakership, and with the GOP holding a 222-212 majority, he can lose four Republicans. A core group of 19 hard-right Republicans, most of them aligned with former President Donald Trump, voted against him in all three rounds. McCarthy said he spoke with Trump on Tuesday and still had his backing for House speaker. Trump told NBC News he has "everybody calling me wanting my support," and "we'll see what happens."

It isn't clear how McCarthy plans to cobble together the 218 votes, but he has two basic options. He could threaten, cajole, or offer more concessions to his Freedom Caucus detractors, peeling off enough to win a majority but risking defections from more moderate Republicans and all-but-ensuring he would be a historically weak speaker. Or he could try to cut a deal with Democrats to either back him or sit out the vote, lowering his threshold for victory.

GOP strategist Karl Rove told Fox News that McCarthy has has already made big concessions to win over GOP holdouts, and they just asked for more. If McCarthy gives in to these new, mostly impossible demands, he added, "there are going to be other demands from other groups of the House Republicans. This is an utter, unmitigated disaster."

Incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who won a plurality of votes in all three rounds, said Republicans have not yet reached out to his caucus. And he didn't sound overly eager to make a deal. "We are looking for a willing partner to solve problems for the American people, not save the Republicans from their dysfunction," Jeffries said. "We need a partner in governance" and haven't found one in McCarthy's Republicans. 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) seemed a little more amenable. "Democrats are here, we're not going anywhere, and if they want to play ball, we're open to that," she told MSNBC Tuesday night.

"I do not believe that Kevin McCarthy has the votes, I believe that a lot of the opposition to him is very personal," and if no Republican can get 218 votes, "McCarthy's team may have to come to the Democratic Party," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And if that's the case, then what would that even look like? It's rather unprecedented. Could it result in a potential coalition government? Could we get Democratic chairs of committees as a result? We don't know."