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The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Photo: M.H. Anderson Photography).

N.J. representatives hold their ground on second day of House Speaker vote

State’s Democrats project mix of excitement and frustration as process drags on

By Joey Fox, January 04 2023 4:49 pm

The vote for U.S. House Speaker went to a fourth, fifth, and sixth vote today, with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) failing to get a majority of the vote another three times after already failing thrice yesterday. 21 mostly right-wing representatives are refusing to back him, one more than the 20 who did so yesterday.

But New Jersey’s three Republican House members have all stood by McCarthy, support that’s likely to hold firm as long as McCarthy remains a candidate for Speaker. The state’s nine Democratic representatives, meanwhile, joined their entire caucus in backing House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York).

After the sixth vote failed to produce a Speaker, House members voted to adjourn until 8 p.m. tonight, when they will resume voting.

Many Democrats could hardly contain their glee at the unfolding spectacle, among them Rep.-elect Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson), whose social media feed is often a hotbed of taunts and jibes at Republicans. (Every House member is technically a representative-elect at the moment, since no one can be sworn in without a Speaker.)

“Update from the House floor: after four rounds of voting republicans still can’t elect a Speaker and they still can’t govern #RepublicanHouseClownShow,” Pascrell tweeted after the fourth failed vote.

Another New Jersey Democrat, Rep.-elect Andy Kim (D-Moorestown), was more somber, saying that the chaos did a disservice to the American public.

“Surreal waking up to a day where America does not have a House of Representatives,” Kim tweeted this morning. “No members sworn in. No ability to pass legislation or respond to crises. Remember this was pure Republican incompetence to go to House floor without sorting out their side. Now our nation suffers.”

As long as McCarthy remains the Republican standard-bearer and Democrats stay united behind Jeffries, it seems likely that all 12 of New Jersey’s House members will continue voting the same way they have the first six times. But should something change, they could all become important swing votes in deciding the next Speaker.

If McCarthy stands down in favor of a different Republican candidate, Reps.-elect Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis), Chris Smith (R-Manchester), and Tom Kean Jr. (R-Westfield) – all McCarthy loyalists to varying extents – would have to choose whether to move their votes to the new Speaker nominee. (They’d all be likely to do so, although a far-right nominee could be a harder sell.)

Democrats, on the other hand, may be interested in cutting some sort of deal, either with McCarthy or another, more centrist Republican. Rep.-elect Mikie Sherrill (D-Montclair) alluded to that possibility on a press call earlier today, saying that she’d be interested in some sort of compromise but that Republicans haven’t made compelling outreach to Democrats as of now.

“They have to understand what they’re willing to do to have Democrats come over,” Sherrill said. “To just sort of go to Kevin McCarthy and say, look, we’re happy to vote for you – he’s already given up this store to the right wing. So why would we make him Speaker when he’s already agreed to the list of demands from the right?”

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