As the 118th Congress convened on Tuesday, the election for House speaker devolved into a pitched floor fight, with a mutiny among hard-right lawmakers creating political chaos not seen in the chamber in a century. Just before 5:30 p.m., after three votes failed to produce a winner, the House adjourned until noon on Wednesday.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, failed to win the speakership on the first three votes, turning what was to be a triumphant moment for the new G.O.P. majority into a political crisis that exposed the fissures within the party just as it assumed control of the House. And since the chamber cannot swear in members or perform actual work until the speaker is chosen, the nation’s legislative process was at a standstill.
Here’s what to know:
Needing a majority of the House to win — 218 votes with all members present and participating — Mr. McCarthy received 203 in the first two rounds of balloting, then lost a supporter in the third round, finishing with 202. He has pledged to fight for the speakership even if it requires lawmakers to vote multiple times.
The Democrats are united behind their leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who earned the most votes, 212, on all three ballots but will almost certainly not win because his party controls only 212 seats, short of the 218 needed.
Until Tuesday, the House had not failed to elect a speaker on the first roll call vote since 1923, when the election stretched for nine ballots. House precedent dictates that members continue to take successive votes until someone — Mr. McCarthy or a different nominee — secures the majority needed to prevail.