Washington: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy failed for a seventh time to get a majority vote for speaker despite offering his GOP detractors concessions, including a simpler way to oust him should he ultimately win the election for the job.
On the third day of deadlock in the House, McCarthy was unable to chip away at his opposition, with 20 GOP lawmakers again holding out to deny him the 218 votes needed to be named speaker.
The California Republican's latest concessions threaten to weaken his power in the chamber and his ability to control hard-liners in his party, raising the risk of chaos on issues like the debt ceiling and government spending. But it may be the only way that McCarthy, who abandoned a bid for speaker in 2015, still has a chance of getting the job.
McCarthy has offered a group of GOP dissidents one of their biggest demands: lowering the threshold to bring a motion to oust a speaker to just one lawmaker, a person familiar with the talks said.
Under current parliamentary rules, it would take half of the House GOP to forward such a motion to remove the leader. Changing that to just one lawmaker would leave the speaker, the second-in-line to the presidency, facing potential repetitive attempts for removal.
McCarthy previously offered to lower the number of lawmakers needed to make the motion to vacate to five.
The most hardcore dissidents have not been part of the latest horse trading, however. Dissidents like Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert and Bob Good continue to say they will never vote for McCarthy. Matt Rosendale and Eli Crane are also part of that group. If they all oppose McCarthy he remains blocked.
McCarthy has faced three days of House floor balloting without gaining a majority of votes, which he needs in the face of unified Democratic opposition.
McCarthy said before the vote that he didn't expect many votes would change but the two sides are still talking. But the latest concessions show that, if he succeeds, he's paying a steep price.
In 2015, a motion to vacate was filed against former Speaker John Boehner, a Republican who resigned from office before the vote was held.
McCarthy has also offered to meet demands to seat some far-right conservatives on plum committees, including at least two of them on the House Rules Committee; they had been seeking four.
In addition, votes on term limits and border security have been promised, and additional budget and appropriations changes are being discussed, along with specific subcommittee chairmanships. Those changes will be difficult for appropriators "- some of McCarthy's biggest supporters "- to swallow.
Arkansas Republican Steve Womack, an appropriator, left the Thursday morning meeting saying that "frustrated" doesn't begin to describe how his reaction to the latest concessions. He said he would go through the proposal, line by line.
"There's not a word," Womack said about his feelings about the proposal. "Webster hasn't come up with a word yet."
Still, even supporters say it will be difficult for McCarthy to get 218 votes, which would meet the required 50% plus one vote threshold to get elected.
Republicans hold a 222 to 212 seat advantage, but with 20 Republicans opposing him, he's fallen far short of that, and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries has even pulled more votes. At least four Republicans have said they will not vote for McCarthy no matter what.
But a person involved said there's talk of enticing some of those Republicans to back McCarthy, and then convincing some others to simply not vote for anyone "- lowering the majority threshold. That would reduce the total number of votes McCarthy would need.
Democrats, meanwhile, are watching it all unfold.
"He's given away everything, including his dignity, so I don't know what else he has left to give away," Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern said Wednesday night.