Conservative Republican foes have kept him from getting close to a majority in the latest round of voting for speaker that has now stretched into a third day.
The House adjourned for a few hours early Wednesday evening only to then adjourn until noon Thursday.
In the three rounds of balloting Wednesday, 20 Republicans voted for Byron Donalds as an alternative to McCarthy. Donalds is one of the few Black Republicans in Congress and has represented a Florida district since 2021. One Republican, Victoria Spartz, voted present.
Republicans will hold a narrow 222-212 majority in the House, with one current vacancy, requiring McCarthy to win at least 218 votes to claim the speakership, assuming all 434 lawmakers vote. Under a provision in the U.S. Constitution, he also would become second in line of succession to the presidency.
McCarthy, a staunch conservative himself, has sought for years to lead the House. Over the past several weeks, he has met repeatedly with his Republican foes to secure their support.
McCarthy offered to change the House’s governing rules in several ways, including to permit snap votes to declare the speakership vacant and select someone else if they did not like his policy stances or how the party caucus was conducting its promised investigations of Biden and his administration.
Democratic Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, with all 212 Democrats voting for him, led the voting for the speakership, although he has no chance of winning the job because no Republicans plan to vote for him to help him reach the 218 majority.
The 77 new House Representatives, including 23rd Congressional District member-elect Nick Langworthy, are in limbo until a House Speaker is elected. New House members cannot be sworn in until a Speaker is elected.