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Reports: McCarthy Plans to 'Grind it Out,' With No Intention to Adjourn for Weekend (UPDATE: Deal?)

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

I'm not sure what choice he has, honestly.  If he's not going to step aside and allow another serious alternative option to try to get to 218, the best chance he's got is to peel off some of the holdouts with a raft of additional concessions (see update), then hope that the resulting 'momentum' will put unsustainable pressure on the harder-core 'Never Kevin' contingent.  In the meantime, per Punchbowl News, McCarthy says he has no intention to adjourn the lower chamber for any significant period of time (presumably beyond overnights, as we've now seen a few times) until a Speaker is selected.  Eleven failed ballots and multiple temporary adjournments deep, here's where things stand -- with the House scheduled to reconvene at midday today:

GOP leaders now believe they’re reaching a tipping point. Either a large bloc of McCarthy’s 20 conservative opponents moves in his direction following yet another round of negotiations or McCarthy’s quest to become speaker may have stalled out permanently...House Republicans had planned to hold a conference call to explain to the rank-and-file the prospective rules package deal that leadership wants to cut with McCarthy’s opponents...McCarthy planned to use a conference call instead of an in-person meeting because such calls are easier to manage. In-person meetings tend to be unruly and unproductive. But leaders can choose who speaks on a conference call...The grind-it-out theory: McCarthy insists he doesn’t anticipate adjourning the House for any significant period of time – i.e. the weekend – until the speaker’s race is wrapped up.

“We shouldn’t leave. Why should we leave if we haven’t got our work done?” McCarthy told us as he left the Capitol around 9:45 p.m. last night. We asked McCarthy whether he’s concerned that at some point soon, even his allies will tell him to step aside in favor of another Republican, such as Majority Leader Steve Scalise. “Have you seen any drop [in my support]? But you would’ve thought” that would occur, McCarthy added. Then McCarthy repeated what’s at the core of his argument – which is also very true at this point: “Who else can get to 218?”...However, there are those around McCarthy who believe that he needs to wrap this up today or else his speaker bid is mortally wounded. McCarthy doesn’t concur with that view, of course.


Many rank-and-file may resent or even despise the concessions being offered to the McCarthy Mutiny gang, but are they willing to abandon McCarthy over it?  Almost certainly not.  That's the advantage the 'no' brigade has.  Perhaps more information will trickle out via leaks after the planned call, which is slated to start any minute.  What do some of the changes -- being negotiated by Congressmen Chip Roy (TX), Byron Donalds (FL), and Scott Perry (PA), opposite member's of McCarthy's leadership team and other allies -- entail?  Politico offered some emerging details yesterday.  There are influential Rules Committee seats for Freedom Caucus members, as well as a potential vote on term limits (which Mark Levin has been arguing would likely require a constitutional amendment).  Then there are these reported provisions:

- A one-member “motion to vacate”: The GOP leader appears to have finally acquiesced to a demand to lower the threshold needed to force a vote ousting a speaker to just one member. While McCarthy originally indicated that restoring the one-member “motion to vacate” was a red line, his allies now argue that there’s not a huge practical difference between this and his previous offer of requiring five members to trigger the vote.

Major changes to the appropriations process: Fears of another trillion-plus-dollar omnibus spending bill have been a major driver of the conservative backlash to McCarthy. The brewing deal includes a promise for standalone votes on each of the 12 yearly appropriations bills, which would be considered under what is known as an “open rule,” allowing floor amendments to be offered by any lawmaker. Conservatives also won a concession to carve out any earmarks included in those packages for separate votes, though it’s unclear if they’d be voted on as one package or separately.


Depending on the contours and specifics of any deal, this could turn into a 'be careful what you wish for' situation. If House Democrats are able to take advantage of either of these items, they could wreak a lot of procedural and political havoc on any tenuous Republican agenda over the next two years. I've been trying to nail down whether these would be House-wide rules, or just internal party rules, and the answer I've gotten from a few experts is: We don't know, and 'it depends.' The expectation is that the motion to vacate may be written to effectively only apply to the majority party, meaning that members of the Squad, for instance, couldn't force endless 'no confidence' votes on the Speaker, but this may depend on how the agreement is written. And while I'm very much in favor of a more open legislating process, with a sharp turn back toward regular order (as opposed to this sort of dysfunctional legislative obscenity), if the McCarthy holdouts secure an "open rule" for what they see as their own benefit, Democrats may also be able to exploit that by trotting out a barrage of painful amendment votes designed to wound vulnerable Republicans from swing districts that must be held to maintain or grow the GOP majority in the future.  The minority party's hands are typically tied in the House.  This could potentially loosen those knots in ways that will give Republicans fits.


It seems like McCarthy and company are focused on the math that's directly in front of them, and will figure everything else out later, if and when he's got the gavel -- albeit as a profoundly weakened Speaker.  I'll quickly note that McCarthy and his team have already demonstrated a weakness for vote counting and anticipating results, having badly overestimated the likely range of House GOP victories in November, and reportedly significantly underestimating the size and tenacity of the anti-McCarthy faction ahead of this week's vote marathon.  Those misfires, coupled with the reality that all of this wasn't even close to resolved in the weeks before the actual voting started, are not auspicious indicators of Team McCarthy's leadership.  That's part of the reason why it's still no sure bet that he'll get that gavel, even if these talks produce an agreement that pulls half of the mutineers into his column.  If ten 'nay' votes, plus the 'present vote' (from an Indiana Congresswoman who'd previously backed McCarthy), become 'yeas', McCarthy would still be half a dozen votes shy of a majority (see update).  He can only afford to lose four GOP members, based on the arithmetic.  And there could be another potential problem brewing:


One McCarthy supporter has already left DC for a medical appointment (update: he's headed back to DC).  Beyond that, another's wife just gave birth (update: he's reportedly left town), and yet another's mother has died.  If the denominator of this fraction shifts, so does the math involving the numerator.  Consider this a complicating factor, and things are obviously fluid.  Finally, what if there truly are at least five 'Never Kevins,' who for whatever reason, simply will never vote for him?  Others could move, pressure couldn't mount, and they wouldn't budge, regardless.  Then what?  Do Republicans move on to someone else?  Do negotiations with Democrats begin, or get serious, to pry away a handful of votes -- which would come at great cost?  Do Democrats try to splinter off some moderates to back a 'consensus' Speaker?  Some of these scenarios may remain quite far-fetched, but if this thing drags on for more days, at some point, something has to give.  And the further it gets entrenched, the more this dynamic threatens to render any meaningful effort at Republican governance in the House relatively futile for the next two years:

As I wrote on Wednesday, "the first impression House Republicans have given voters following their underwhelming November showing is that sufficient numbers of them lack the will to govern and the capacity to be led."  Best of luck to McCarthy, or whomever lands in that chair.  I'll leave you with smoke signals of possible progress.  Not enough to get there, but progress -- if it pans out:


UPDATE - There is, apparently, a deal.  How many votes it moves will be known soon enough...

...or not so fast?

UPDATE II - At last, movement toward McCarthy.  He's still short, and we'll move to a 13th ballot:

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