McCarthy faces a long battle to become speaker of the House after he failed to get a third vote

The House was postponed until tomorrow afternoon as McCarthy became the first speaker candidate in 100 years to fail to win the first vote

In a historic delay, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday faced a protracted battle to secure the speaker's hammer after failing to win the first three votes on the opening day of the new Congress. A fourth vote – and possibly more, late into the night – was avoided when the House adjourned, by way of a vote, until noon Wednesday.

Prior to that, the first two votes to determine the next speaker saw 19 Republicans against McCarthy, making him 15 votes short of the 218 needed to win. In the third ballot McCarthy lost another supporter, raising fears that he would fail to unite his caucus.

In another demoralizing sign for the new Republican majority, Democrat Hakeem Jeffries received more votes than McCarthy on the first three ballots.

McCarthy is the first nominee for speaker in 100 years who failed to win the first vote for hammer. A Republican political consultant from California said that, for McCarthy, it was "the most embarrassing day of her political career", a line that was picked up in newspapers throughout McCarthy's home state.

McCarthy has admitted he is unlikely to win the speaker on the first ballot, setting the stage for a potential lengthy delay before new members of the House can be sworn in. McCarthy suggested he was comfortable breaking the record for the longest speaker election in history, which stood at two months and 133 ballots. The voting impasse occurred in 1856, shortly before the US civil war.

"We're probably going to fight," McCarthy told reporters. "But the battle is for the conference and the country, and it doesn't matter to me."

On Tuesday night, Donald Trump declined to say whether he would continue to endorse McCarthy as a speaker, telling NBC News: "We'll see what happens. We'll see how it all works out.”

Trump's comments came despite McCarthy's loyalty to the former president, including flying to Mar-a-Lago to meet Trump soon after he left the White House, just weeks after the January 6 uprising.

"We're done with Kevin McCarthy," Virginia congressman Bob Good told CNN late Tuesday, arguing that the Republican vote against McCarthy will only increase in the next round of voting.

The Republican opposition to McCarthy was led by members of the House Freedom Caucus, a far-right group pushing for changes to chamber rules. Scott Perry, chair of the Freedom Caucus, reiterated his opposition Tuesday and accused McCarthy of failing to work in good faith with his group.

"At nearly every opportunity, we have been sidelined or challenged by McCarthy and any perceived progress has often been opaque or contained loopholes that raise further concerns about the sincerity of promises made," Perry said. “Kevin McCarthy has the opportunity to be speaker of the House. He refused."

McCarthy's allies attacked Perry and other supporters, arguing that they had prioritized their own ambitions over the welfare of the party.

Officially nominating McCarthy before the first ballot, Elise Stefanik of New York supported her candidacy and delivered veiled criticism of her opponents.

“No one in this body has worked harder for this Republican majority than Kevin McCarthy,” Stefanik said. "A proud conservative with a tireless work ethic, Kevin McCarthy has earned the speakership of the House."

In the first ballot, the third nomination was advanced by Arizona congressman Paul Gosar, a far-right Republican who offered fellow Arizonan Andy Biggs a conservative alternative. Of the 19 Republicans who opposed McCarthy in the first ballot, 10 supported Biggs, who lost to McCarthy in the November nominating contest, 188-31.

In the second ballot, Jim Jordan, of Ohio, won the support of 19 Republicans who opposed McCarthy in the first ballot. It came after Jordan himself nominated McCarthy, in an attempt to show unity. In his speech, Jordan outlined the Republican Party's agenda and urged his colleagues to set aside differences.

“We need to support it [and] unite,” Jordan said.

But McCarthy lost support on the third ballot. Florida's Byron Donalds switched from McCarthy to Jordan, increasing the number of Republican detractors to 20.

"The reality is... Kevin McCarthy has no voice," Donalds said on Twitter. “Our conference needs to take a break and get together and find someone or work out the next steps… but this constant voting isn't working out for anyone.”

Tuesday's conference meeting failed to resolve issues between McCarthy and her critics. Matt Gaetz, one of McCarthy's most outspoken critics, said those withholding support were threatened with removal from the committee.

"If you want to drain a swamp, you can't put the biggest alligator to do that exercise," Gaetz told reporters. "I'm from Florida, and I know what I'm talking about."

Gaetz and his colleagues show no signs of backing down. Their opposition raises the prospect of a lengthy first-floor fight for the post of speaker of the House in 100 years. The last such spectacle opened in 1923.

"We're not going to back down until we walk into a room and we decide how we can stand up and fight for the American people, no matter who the speaker is," Chip Roy of Texas told Fox News. "I didn't blink."

The second-ranked Republican, Louisiana representative Steve Scalise, is seen as one potential compromise option, but so far he has focused on building support behind McCarthy.

The Senate convened without incident. The Democrats welcomed two new members including John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, who helped his party secure a 51-49 majority.

In remarks on the first floor of the new Congress, majority leader Chuck Schumer praised his counterpart, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for being the chamber's longest-serving party leader.

As an era of divided government begins, after two years of Democratic control, Schumer admits the legislative path "will not be easy" but remains optimistic.

"After all that we have achieved in an evenly divided Senate and a thinly divided House," he said, "there is no reason the two sides cannot continue to work together for the good of our country, our beloved country."

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