BILLINGS — With continued historic deadlock over the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Montana's two Republican representatives are split.
Rep. Ryan Zinke, a Republican representing western Montana, is backing Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California and House Minority Leader since 2019.
Montana's incumbent congressman, Matt Rosendale, is one of the 20 Republicans firmly digging in their heels against Kevin McCarthy, voting instead for other Republican candidates, such as Rep. Byron Donalds, a Republican from Florida.
A total of 218 votes are required to win Speaker, assuming all 435 members are present and voting. The House must continue voting until someone gets this majority, and three ballots failed Wednesday afternoon along with three on Tuesday.
Rosendale, who represents eastern Montana, declined an interview with MTN but has been appearing on conservative national media outlets. He explained his decision on Newsmax Tuesday.
"We gave Kevin McCarthy an opportunity over the last three years to display leadership skills...and he failed, he took a knee," Rosendale said.
Three votes taken Wednesday afternoon kept yielding the same result: 201 votes for McCarthy, 212 votes for Democrat Hakeem Jeffries, and 20 votes for Donalds.
Congress briefly convened again Wednesday night but voted to recess until 10 a.m. Thursday.
It's gridlock that MSU-Billings Political Science Instructor Paul Pope has been watching for two days.
“I think what we’ve been seeing the last couple days is exactly what we expected to happen," Pope said. "I think this is largely due to the fact that the Republican party is severely fractured right now.”
Pope believes the internal rift around McCarthy stems from his relationship with former President Donald Trump.
“We have moderate Republicans who don’t like McCarthy because of his connection to Trump, we have far-right Republicans who don’t like McCarthy because of his connection to Trump, we have far-right Republicans who love McCarthy because of his connection to Trump. So it’s a mixed-bag of support, I don’t really know where they’re going to go with it," Pope said.
The last time a House Speaker needed more than one ballot was 1923, but the record for most ballots held is 133 cast over the course of two months in 1856.
So what happens if the ballots continue to fail?
“It becomes very difficult for them to govern because the Speaker has the power to assign committees for the different members, especially the new members coming in, they have the authority to issue subpoenas," Pope explains.
"If they can’t get their stuff together really soon, it’s going to look very bad.”