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Kevin McCarthy draws mockery online for moving into speaker’s office — even though he’s not speaker

Representative Kevin McCarthy left what is normally the Speakers Office, which has no nameplate, to head to the House floor, Wednesday, on Capitol Hill.Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Despite not having the votes nailed down, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy moved into the speaker’s suite in the Capitol in recent days — a move that has drawn increasing criticism from detractors online.

But even though his antagonists jumped on the optics of McCarthy occupying the space, there was no official reason he — as the majority’s candidate for speaker — shouldn’t be there as a matter of practice.

McCarthy failed to clinch the position during multiple rounds of voting Tuesday, marking the first time in a century that a majority’s candidate for speaker was not named to the role during the first roll call.


With a group of party dissidents delivering a notable rebuke to the California representative, Republicans failed to elect a new speaker, throwing the party into chaos and spelling trouble ahead for McCarthy.

The House will reconvene Wednesday afternoon, and McCarthy — undeterred by the pushback from members of his party — will again try to become speaker.

For now, McCarthy remains set up in the speaker’s office. Earlier this week, staffers were seen moving boxes of McCarthy’s items into the suite.

But the decision to move into the office ahead of being named speaker drew mockery online from fellow politicians and others Tuesday, after McCarthy failed three times to secure enough votes.

In a move that drew further attention to the matter, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz wrote a letter to J. Brett Blanton, the Architect of the Capitol, questioning whether McCarthy could be considered a “squatter” following Tuesday’s events.

“What is the basis in law, House rule, or precedent to allow someone who has placed second in three successive speaker elections to occupy the Speaker of the House Office?” Gaetz wrote. “How long will he remain there before he is considered a squatter?”


Blanton’s office could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Although the move by McCarthy appeared premature to some, the dance of office-switching is a time-honored House tradition and begins immediately after each congressional election.

When the majority changes, it’s a carefully orchestrated process to rotate the minority into majority offices, and vice versa.

It’s customary for the outgoing speaker to vacate the offices and the presumed incoming speaker to move in.

McCarthy’s old office, which has traditionally been the minority leader’s suite, is also no longer available. The name of the new minority leader, New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries, is already above the door. In fact, every office has been settled. The only name plate missing is McCarthy’s.

Lawmakers said they don’t have answers as to what protocol is, exactly, as it’s been 100 years since a majority’s candidate for speaker wasn’t confirmed on the first vote.

“This has never happened before,” said Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who chaired the Administration Committee that oversees the House last Congress.

Ordinarily, Lofgren said, the moves begin right away, and “he was the majority leader and the expected speaker, and the logistics of moving, that’s routine.”

“But of course now, we don’t know what’s going to happen. So I’m afraid there’s no precedent for it,” Lofgren said.

Other Democrats were happy to pile on McCarthy’s woes.

“I think it’s presumptuous,” said Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline.

“Kev you better have someone move those boxes back. All that work grooming crazies just to have them reject you once again,” tweeted Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee.


Others lawmakers wanted nothing to do with the question.

”Ask the movers,” said California Democratic Representative Anna Eshoo.

See reactions to the situation below:

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98. Tal Kopan can be reached at tal.kopan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @talkopan.