It was an unlucky number seven for Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who on Thursday had failed that many times at the start of the third day of ballots to secure the 218 votes necessary to become Speaker of the House.
Rep.-elect John James (R-MI) nominated McCarthy, invoking the pre-Civil War quarrel in Congress between abolitionists and pro-slavery lawmakers.
“It was a long, drawn out, painful process,” James said in his speech on the House floor, noting that in 1855, after two months and 133 ballots, an abolitionist narrowly won the Speakership.
“Margins don’t matter when your policies are on the right side of history,” he said. “We will stand on the right side of history again.” Although he quickly added, “But not yet—we’re still stuck at the starting block.”
He went on to say in a speech that received a standing ovation from Republicans, “The American people by putting a Republican majority here said that they want Republicans to lead, and they want a government that works and doesn’t embarrass them, and we are failing on both missions. That must change today.”
For a third day and a seventh time, Rep.-elect Pete Aguilar (D-CA) nominated Rep.-elect Hakeem Jeffries (D-CA) for Speaker. He received his second standing ovation in a matter of seconds when he said, “I speak on behalf of the Democratic caucus when I say there is no victory in adjourning without doing the business of the people.”
In total Aguilar received four standing ovations from Democrats for his speech and for Jeffries’ nomination.
Rep.-elect Dan Bishop (R-NC) then nominated Rep.-elect Byron Donalds (R-FL) to act as spoiler for a second day and a fourth round against McCarthy. Bishop received a standing ovation from Democrats who chanted, “Hakeem! Hakeem!” when he said, “Yesterday, we could have elected the first Black Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
Bishop went on to attack a tweet by African American Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-MO) in which she called Donalds “a prop.”
“I’ve spent a good bit of time with Mr. Donalds, especially lately,” Bishop said on the House floor. “He ain’t no prop.”
Donalds received 19 votes in round seven while McCarthy received 201 votes. It was the same number of votes McCarthy had received in Wednesday’s three rounds.
For a fourth consecutive round, Rep.-elect Victoria Spartz (R-IN) voted “present.”
McCarthy—who has moved his property into the Speaker’s office—failed to secure the necessary votes despite spending Wednesday night negotiating with the resistant House Republicans, including Gaetz, and offering them a new batch of concessions to gain their support.
Across the aisle, Jeffries received all 212 Democratic votes for the seventh round in a row.