The vote for Speaker of the U.S. House unfolded in dramatic fashion today, with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) failing to win over enough Republican detractors to win the speakership on the first three votes. It’s the first time in 100 years that the Speaker vote has gone to multiple ballots; the voting will resume at noon tomorrow after House members chose to adjourn for the day.
But New Jersey’s 12 House members didn’t contribute to the impasse: the state’s three Republicans voted for McCarthy all three times, while its nine Democrats supported House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York).
McCarthy got 203 votes in the first two rounds and 202 in the third, short of the 218 needed to get a majority of the overall membership of the House, with 20 right-wing members refusing to back him in at least one round. New Jersey Reps. Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) and Chris Smith (R-Manchester) and Rep.-elect Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) all supported McCarthy, as they had previously pledged to do.
Jeffries, who was unanimously chosen as leader of his conference last month to replace former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, got the votes of all 212 House Democrats. Jeffries is a close ally of one New Jersey Democrat, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff), and he won over the vote of Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair), who didn’t support Pelosi for Speaker in 2018 or 2020.
It’s not clear what will happen when the House returns tomorrow. McCarthy could still end up cobbling together a winning coalition; a different, more conservative Republican could step up and win over anti-McCarthy Republicans; or Democrats could peel away a small number of moderate Republicans to elect a compromise candidate.
Under any of these possibilities, New Jersey’s House members could play an important role. If Democrats choose to vote present instead of for Jeffries, they could lower the threshold needed for a win and assist McCarthy; alternately, strongly pro-McCarthy Republicans like Kean could be important swing votes if McCarthy steps aside.
This story was updated at 3:23 p.m. after a second vote produced the same result. It was updated again at 5:32 p.m. after a third vote failed to produce a Speaker and the House voted to adjourn.