Rep.-Elect John James (R-MI) nominated Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for the seventh speakership ballot on Thursday after six separate votes between Tuesday and Wednesday did not result in the election of a speaker of the 118th House of Representatives.
James, a freshman and one of the first two black Republican West Point graduates ever elected to the House, along with fellow freshman Rep.-Elect Wesley Hunt (R-TX), told his colleagues, “The work we promised the American people we would do, we’re welching on that promise,” as speaker votes wane on.
“But I have hope, I have hope that we’ll be able to come together, and unify, and put the right person in leadership,” he added.
After James revealed a private moment he and McCarthy shared when they first met ahead of the State of the Union in 2019, he emphasized that McCarthy’s leadership in the minority over recent years had yielded “victories on rules,” “costs,” and “the majority”:
The first time we met was in his office under the watchful gaze of a Fredrick Douglas painting, and he told me in that office on the eve of the 2019 State of the Union Address, that there’s nothing that could be said or done that embarrassed him more than the fact that when the Democrat side stood up, they would look more like the United States of America than we do. And he set out, not to compromise our values, not to compromise our ideology, but to work harder to make sure that more people with diverse perspectives and different lived experiences could be here.
He noted that in the 2020 election, under McCarthy’s leadership, the GOP picked up 14 seats in the House, all of which were won by “minorities, women, and veterans.” The gains narrowed the Democrat majority and got the GOP to 213 seats. Conversely, Senate Republicans lost four seats in that election.
“The very next cycle, this next cycle, he wanted me and my good buddy and classmate, Wes Hunt, to help double the number of black Republicans in the Republican conference,” he said, drawing thunderous applause that included McCarthy detractors like Reps. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
And when you look at the governor’s mansions and the legislatures we’ve lost across the country this last cycle, and when you look at the gains that Kevin McCarthy has made uphill, getting the gavel as a minority leader in half the time – You know the mainstream media likes to laude the speakership of Nancy Pelosi – Kevin McCarthy won the gavel back as minority leader in half the time uphill.
“We want to talk about people who can win, well I’m a [Detroit] Lions fan, and I’m well acquainted with snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Y’all, we need to learn how to win,” he said, seemingly addressing his 20 colleagues who have repeatedly voted against McCarthy.
“We need to learn how to take a victory, and by Kevin McCarthy’s leadership, he’s given us victories on rules, he’s given victories on keeping costs down, and he’s given us victories with winning the majority back,” he added.
The ballot was ultimately unsuccessful, with McCarthy winning 201 votes, Democrat nominee Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) with all 212 Democrat votes, and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) receiving 19 votes. Gaetz cast a lone vote for former President Donald Trump, who looks to be very busy in the years ahead with his latest presidential bid. Of note, Trump called on McCarthy’s detractors, like Gaetz, to get behind the leader on Wednesday. An eighth ballot is on the horizon.