Rep. Byron Donalds emerges as latest protest candidate to stomp on Kevin McCarthy's House speaker dreams

Rep. Byron Donalds emerges as latest protest candidate to stomp on Kevin McCarthy's House speaker dreams
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California speaks during his weekly press conference at the US Capitol on November 21, 2019 in Washington, DC.Alex Edelman/Getty Images
  • Kevin McCarthy lost three more House speaker ballots on Wednesday, making him 0 for 6.
  • Anti-McCarthy advocates nominated Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida as their latest pick.

Within the past 24 hours, Rep. Kevin McCarthy lost second-term lawmaker Byron Donalds' vote for House speaker, and then faced off against him for the up-in-the-air leadership post — losing three times in a row.

The fourth losing ballot came Wednesday afternoon after the 20 dissenters who blocked McCarthy the day before by backing Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio switched things up by nominating Donalds to run the procedurally paralyzed chamber. The subsequent fifth and sixth ballots yielded the same result, with McCarthy bleeding support rather than converting critics.

The only other deviation was that Republican Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana voted "present" the last three times, shrinking McCarthy's slowly receding base to 201 votes.

The anti-McCarthy camp has so far proposed rallying behind Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Jordan, and Donalds.

Donalds, who voted for himself on the floor, told reporters he accepted the historic nomination from his colleagues even though that's not a career ambition of his.


"I never came here to try to be speaker," Donalds said on the front steps of the US Capitol, adding that keeping the leadership deliberations going is his focus right now.

When asked what, if any, further concessions McCarthy could make to the dissenters, Donalds said allowing any single member of the House Republican caucus to call for a vote to oust the speaker — known as a motion to vacate — might satisfy "some" of the detractors.

"It's about empowering members to do the job that they were elected to do, not continuing to put more power into the hands of the speakership," Donalds said of the internal check on power McCarthy has somewhat bent on, but not yet fully given into.

Donalds, who was put up for the top job by Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, lent McCarthy his support during the first two rounds of voting on Tuesday, but later switched sides after concluding that the badly wounded California Republican has no path to victory.

McCarthy refused to back down ahead of the latest defeats, insisting that he's still the favorite among the broader Republican caucus.


"I still have the most votes," McCarthy told congressional reporters ahead of the latest defeat. He added that he'd "continue to talk" with the dissenters, even though he keeps losing ground with every failed floor vote.

The emboldened opposition group, which was so far picked up support rather than withering under pressure from McCarthy, Jordan, embattled former President Donald Trump, and former Vice President Mike Pence, has vowed to keep at it until things really change around the US Capitol.

"We can't continue with the same failed policies, rules, strategies, and *leadership* that are killing our Nation. @ByronDonalds will break the status quo," anti-McCarthy advocate Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania wrote online.

House Republicans moved to adjourn until 8 p.m., moving the infighting off the House floor as McCarthy seeks a way out of this Groundhog Day-like predicament.