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The House has voted 6 times without choosing a speaker

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

A historic stalemate in the U.S. House is headed into its third day as Republicans failed again to elect a speaker.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy started Wednesday hopeful that he would have the speaker's gavel by day's end.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: We could go through every name in the conference and be at the end of the day, but we'll be able to get there.

INSKEEP: But if McCarthy does get there at the end of the day, as the expression goes, that day was not going to be Wednesday. Not only did he fall short three more times as some of his fellow Republicans voted against him, his party barely had enough votes to adjourn last night.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins us this morning. So clearly, both sides are dug in here, and that means business is not getting done. Will we see a repeat today?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: It's possible. For example, we saw the 20 conservative Republicans voting against Leader McCarthy hold firm for a second day in a row, much more than the four he can afford to lose for a speakership bid. But we did see some small signs of progress last night. After McCarthy lost that sixth round of ballots, he met with his opponents to try to offer up new concessions. And as he was leaving that meeting, he sounded a note of optimism again.

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MCCARTHY: I think it's probably best - let people work through some more. I think - I don't think voting tonight does any difference, but I think voting in the future will.

GRISALES: Soon after, Republicans were able to win a motion to adjourn for the night, but only by two votes, another reminder of the razor-thin margins in the House.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. What's the plan for today?

GRISALES: The chamber is once again set to convene at noon today for more votes, but Republicans were still hoping to reach a deal for McCarthy in the interim. But just as we mentioned yesterday, there's still plenty of division and little room for error. McCarthy can only lose a handful of members in his conference to win the speakership, and we saw another sign that his opposition could grow yesterday. In addition to the 20 defectors, a new Republican flipped on him. Indiana Representative Victoria Spartz voted present, depriving McCarthy of yet another vote in his favor. She tweeted that Republicans needed time to deliberate further until they have enough votes to elect a speaker and, quote, "stop wasting everyone's time."

MARTÍNEZ: So what could McCarthy do to get over this hump?

GRISALES: McCarthy has made a lot of concessions to his opponent already, including offering up an option for only five members to move to remove him as speaker, something that would require a much higher threshold normally. And last night, McCarthy's super PAC reached a deal with an influential group, the Club for Growth, in support of his bid, and that was to back off spending in certain, quote, "safe GOP districts" to support a particular candidate, addressing one more demand from these conservatives. One of McCarthy supporters in Nebraska, Representative Don Bacon, who's entertained working with Democrats to elect a unity speaker, said McCarthy just needs more time to reach a deal with his opponents.

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DON BACON: I believe that there would be folks on the other side of the aisle that will make a deal with us when it comes to working on committees and things like that. But we don't want to go down this path too far. This is about Kevin McCarthy right now. Give him every opportunity to win.

MARTÍNEZ: So if there isn't a light at the end of the tunnel deal waiting, how long could this last?

GRISALES: That's a big question looming over the chamber. Democrats have warned their members they should be prepared to even stay through the weekend. But again, we should note this is an urgent concern. Much of the business of the House is on hold. Members are not getting sworn in. They cannot address a request from their constituents. They cannot form committees or hold official meetings or access intel briefings. In other words, nothing gets done until this gets done.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Claudia Grisales, thanks a lot.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.