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A split-screen day will feature GOP’s dysfunction and Biden’s bipartisan event

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks with fellow House Republican in between roll call votes for Speaker of the House of the 118th Congress on Jan. 3, 2023.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks with fellow House Republican in between roll call votes for Speaker of the House of the 118th Congress on Jan. 3, 2023.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... The new House GOP majority returns to elect a speaker after failing on three votes Tuesday. ... Kevin McCarthy vows to stay in race for speaker, per NBC’s Capitol Hill team: “It might not happen on the day we want it, but it’s gonna happen.” ... Donald Trump, after earlier declining to say he supports McCarthy, posts: “Vote for Kevin,” NBC’s Garrett Haake reports. ... Nancy Pelosi reacts to GOP dysfunction: “As one who loves this institution, I think it’s a sad day.” ... And President Biden appears with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell to tout the bipartisan infrastructure law. 

But first: Talk about a revealing split-screen day in American politics.

Around the same time today that House Republicans try again to elect a speaker — yesterday saw the first failed votes for speaker in 100 years — President Biden and Mitch McConnell (along with GOP Gov. Mike DeWine and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear) all appear at an event in Kentucky promoting a bridge improvement from the bipartisan infrastructure law. 

It’s the rabble-rousers in the House vs. the deal-makers assembling in Kentucky. 

And that might be the biggest divide inside the current Republican Party: Far-right conservatives who appear to put protest and performance art above all else, versus fellow conservatives who can at least demonstrate deal-making and political comity in a divided government. 

Remember, McConnell — who blocked Merrick Garland from the Supreme Court and quickly confirmed Amy Coney Barrett right before the 2020 presidential election — is no moderate squish. 

One other point to make: It’s the rabble-rousing wing of the GOP that turned off persuadable voters in 2022 (as well as in 2018 and 2020) who’s holding Kevin McCarthy and the speaker vote hostage. 

And that side of party lost decisively in November.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 16

That’s how many years it’s been since a Democratic leader won every single one of their party’s votes for speaker, until Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., did so Tuesday. 

Jeffries secured 212 votes Tuesday afternoon during each of the votes for speaker, with every single Democrat voting for him and not abstaining. 

The last time that happened was in 2007, when Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., won unanimous support from her party and won the speakership after Democrats took control of the House. Pelosi won every Democrat voting in 2009, but one member, Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, did not vote. Read more on the Meet the Press Blog.

Other numbers to know:

30: How many years Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, the newly elected Senate president pro tempore, has served in the Senate. She’s the first woman to serve in the role. 

16: How many years Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has served as Senate GOP leader, making him the longest-serving Senate leader ever, per NBC News’ Frank Thorp. 

$313,500: How much McCarthy’s leadership PAC has donated to the campaigns of 17 of the 20 lawmakers who opposed his speaker bid, per Axios. 

$350,000: The amount a Virginia judge ruled that groups responsible for the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville will have to pay in punitive damages, down from the $24 million awarded earlier by a jury.

3,500: The number of migrants who arrived in Denver over the last month after crossing the Southern border, a number that has local Colorado officials scrambling to help book travel to final destinations outside of the state, Politico reports.

24: The number of Cuban migrants on boats that have been rescued by two cruise ships off the coast of Florida in recent days.

Eyes on 2024: DeSantis takes office amid GOP chaos 

As the GOP descended into chaos on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis took the oath of office amid speculation that he could launch a run for the White House. DeSantis’ commanding victory was one of Republicans’ few bright spots of the midterms and NBC News’ Allan Smith writes that DeSantis cast his administration “as the bulwark against Democratic leadership at the state and federal level.”

Smith reports that during his 15-minute inaugural address, DeSantis did not hint at a potential White House run, but he repeated his mantra that Florida is where “woke goes to die.” 

But speculation continues to mount about what a standoff between DeSantis and former President Donald Trump could look like. For example, the New York Times reports that Latino evangelicals could become a “decisive swing vote in Florida” if DeSantis does decide to run.

In other campaign news:

Ads in 240 characters or less: Twitter is loosening some of its restrictions on political ads, per the New York Times. 

Calendar clamoring: New Hampshire Democratic leaders in the state legislature are pushing back on a new Democratic primary calendar, notifying the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee that they “have no ability to address voting laws in the face of a Republican trifecta in the state,” per USA Today. Meanwhile, Politico reports that 14 former South Carolina state directors for 2020 presidential candidates backed the proposal to make the Palmetto State the first primary.  

Awkward: Amid multiple investigations and after admitting he lied about his background, Rep.-elect George Santos, R-N.Y., had an awkward first day on Capitol Hill, per the Washington Post. And CNN reports that Santos admitted in 2010 to stealing a man’s checkbook in 2008 and using the checks in Brazil, per a police statement. 

Braun bucks: GOP Sen. Mike Braun is ramping up his fundraising as he runs for governor, per the Associated Press. 

Reeves is running: Mississippi GOP Gov. Tate Reeves officially filed to run for re-election on Tuesday, per the AP. 

Bluegrass test: The New York Times explores how the 2023 race for governor in Kentucky will test Republican divisions and Democrats’ appeal in conservative areas.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Sam Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty in New York to fraud charges related to the collapse of his former crypto exchange and hedge fund.

President Joe Biden plans to renominate former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be ambassador to India as Democrats gain a larger Senate majority.

The Justice Department said that the Postal Service could continue mailing prescription abortion medication without violating federal law.