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Day 4 of the House trying to to elect a speaker: The dynamic has shifted

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

For the fourth day in a row, the House of Representatives has tried to elect a speaker. California Republican Kevin McCarthy did pick up support today from a big chunk of the 20 Republicans who had been voting against him for the last three days.

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TYLEASE ALLI: Luna.

ANNA PAULINA LUNA: Pending negotiations in good faith that will outlive this entire conference, Kevin McCarthy.

(CHEERING)

KELLY: That was Florida Republican Anna Paulina Luna voting for McCarthy this afternoon. McCarthy predicted after the momentum shift on the floor that he will be elected speaker tonight.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: I think it's very positive. We're going to get it done tonight.

KELLY: NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins me again from the Capitol. Hey, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey there again, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Hey. So is McCarthy, right? Is he going to get the votes?

WALSH: He could. I mean, the dynamic really shifted dramatically today, as you said. There was a morning meeting, a conference call of House Republicans to talk about some possible rules changes. When House Republicans went back to voting, a total of the 15 of the 20 Republicans who had been voting against McCarthy switched their votes today. But he still does need to pick up four votes if all members of the House are here and voting. That number could change if someone decides to vote present.

Remember, House Republicans only have a four-seat majority, so he can't afford to lose more than a few defections. Two of McCarthy's supporters, Wesley Hunt of Texas and Ken Buck of Colorado, missed today's votes, but could be back later to eventually help out. The House is adjourned till 10 o'clock tonight to give them time to travel back to be in place for the next ballot, which I should say is the 14th ballot in this effort.

KELLY: The 14th, yeah.

WALSH: I mean, I've been in this chamber all week, and today really felt like a tipping point for McCarthy. Members last night were getting pretty testy. And things were at an impasse. But one after another, when these group of critics stood up, switched their votes, got a standing ovation, it really felt like a big vibe shift.

KELLY: And what prompted this? I'm going to guess these members got something in return.

WALSH: They sure did. I mean, some significant changes to the way the House operates, assurances some of them are going to get some seats on some key committees. The framework for this agreement, which I should say is not final, includes pledges to hold separate votes on each spending bill, some major changes on budget numbers or budget discussions, votes on amendments on the floor. South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman for days has been saying he didn't trust McCarthy was a true fiscal conservative, but said today these new changes on spending were big progress for him and earned his vote.

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RALPH NORMAN: Everybody knows that this system has been broken in Washington, D.C., for a long time. This was - this is something that hadn't been done in a hundred years what we were able to accomplish. And more is on the way.

WALSH: Some of McCarthy's allies admitted they didn't support some of the changes in this framework, but it wasn't enough for them to vote against McCarthy. One of these Republicans, Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw, is a combat veteran and said some of these spending changes could have an impact on the Pentagon budget and has concerns about that. But he said it was important to get spending under control.

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DAN CRENSHAW: These are decent agreements, right? If you're trying to get a budget under control, which you should be trying to do, then this is a decent framework.

KELLY: Deirdre Walsh, if McCarthy does get the votes he needs, whether later tonight, tomorrow, how hard is it going to be for him to do the job to run the House with all these changes?

WALSH: Really hard. I mean, it just proves the speaker, who was already weak with this razor-thin four-seat majority, could be derailed by a few of his members at almost every turn. You know, Democrats showed total unity throughout all of these votes this week. One of the rules changes McCarthy agreed to allows just one lawmaker to sponsor a resolution to remove the speaker. McCarthy downplayed this and said this is the way it was before Pelosi was speaker. But going back to this rule is also the way it was when former Speaker John Boehner was forced out.

KELLY: A little bit of the history there of other late nights at the Capitol. NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thank you.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.