Day 4, 11 voting rounds, 0 speakers: House leadership fiasco, by the numbers

Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Following three days of failed votes to elect the next speaker of the House of Representatives, members are set to try, try again after convening on Friday.

The Republicans’ leading contender, Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), is facing a rebellion from staunchly conservative members of his own party. And so a process that for a century has taken just one round has collapsed into a seemingly never-ending cycle of votes – and left Americans breaking out the popcorn.

As the rounds of voting keep flying by, it’s easy to lose track of how we got here (and what’s needed to get out of here). Here’s what to know about the House leadership fiasco, by the numbers.


It’s Day 4 of the House trying to elect a new speaker. The first day of the brand-new 118th Congress was on Tuesday, with incoming lawmakers and their families flocking to Washington — anticipating that they would be sworn in to office by whomever was elected in the Republican-controlled House. Press releases were even pre-scheduled, and published, for the moment that never came.


That’s how many rounds of voting have taken place over three days of voting. Each time, McCarthy failed to clinch the slot. Republicans are seeking a deal to break the deadlock as the House returns on Friday.


The number of speakers so far? Zero.


That’s the number of members of the House of Representatives who cannot yet be sworn in due to the dysfunction. No other business in the House can take place until a speaker is selected. (The House has 435 seats, but one is vacant following the death of Rep. Donald McEachin (D-Va.) in November. An election to fill the seat will take place next month.)


That’s the magic threshold that McCarthy — or any front-runner — would need to cross to take the gavel, if every member is voting. It amounts to a simple majority of the currently 434-member House. In practice, the math gets a little more complicated if members are absent or voting “present” (in effect, abstaining) as candidates only require a majority of those casting a ballot.


There are 222 Republicans in the House, after the party won a narrow majority in November’s midterms.


There are 212 Democrats in the House, all of whom have consistently voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y) for speaker.


With a cohort of 21 conservative Republicans declining to vote for McCarthy, the numbers are not adding up for him. Despite Republicans’ public optimism over the prospects of a deal to end the impasse, McCarthy’s support has waned as the days continued, with two members who initially supported him withdrawing their support.


This is the maximum amount of votes McCarthy has gotten so far in any one round of voting.


Besides McCarthy, and including Democrats’ top pick Jeffries, a total of eight candidates for House speaker have received votes so far — including Republican Reps. Byron Donalds (Fla.), Kevin Hern (Okla.), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Jim Banks (Ind.) — and former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who recently lost the race for New York governor. Former President Donald Trump also received a single vote during Thursday’s ballot. While he and Zeldin are not elected members of the House, there’s no rule stating that speakers must be.


The number of votes McCarthy has received for speaker in his lifetime, by the end of Thursday. That’s the highest number since 1913.


That’s how many years it’s been since a House speaker hasn’t been elected in the first round. In 1923, Frederick Gillett (R-Mass.) was reelected on the ninth ballot.


If 11 voting rounds seems bad, consider the 133 votes it took in 1856 to elect a speaker — over a span of two months. McCarthy will be hoping that he can win over the remaining Republicans long before the situation gets to that point — but has also said he will ensure that any concessions will not alienate more moderate party members.


That’s the total number of House speakers in American history. Will McCarthy — or someone else — become the 55th?

Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker of the House

The vote: The House elected Kevin McCarthy after days of defeats and concessions to win over hard-line Republicans. See how each of the House members voted in all 15 ballots.

A dramatic finish: After multiple ballots over four days (the longest House speaker vote in history took two months and 133 votes), the House turned into a near-brawl late Friday after a 14th round of voting failed. See the remarkable near-confrontation on the House floor.

Kevin McCarthy’s concessions: McCarthy made several concessions in an attempt to win over 20 Republicans who voted against his candidacy. In the end, these were the remaining six holdouts McCarthy needed to persuade. Here are the concessions that could become flash points.