Republicans rally against Rep. McCarthy during first-round speaker vote.

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If those votes stay that way, Mr. McCarthy will lose his the bid to be speaker on the first vote, and the House will move to a second round.

Reps. Andy Biggs (R., Ariz.), Dan Bishop (R., N.C.), Josh Brecheen (R., Okla.), Lauren Boebert (R., Colo.) and Michael Cloud (R., Texas) were the first five to vote against Mr. McCarthy — voting instead for Mr. Biggs as well as Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana.

By the time the roll call got to the “D” names, the number of non-McCarthy GOP votes had grown to seven. By the “P”s, the number grew to 15.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy spent the weekend scrambling to get the votes necessary from House Republicans to win the gavel. But his bid remained up in the air as some conservative lawmakers threatened to turn Tuesday’s leadership vote into the most unpredictable in a century.

Because Republicans have such a narrow majority over Democrats—222 to 212, with one vacancy — Mr. McCarthy needs almost unanimous support. Lawmakers and aides said the outcome is uncertain. If all Democrats back their own leaders as expected, Mr. McCarthy can lose only four votes in the roll-call vote, in which the winner must get 218 votes or the majority of all those present and voting.

A failure of Mr. McCarthy’s bid would be unprecedented in modern history and underscore the shaky state of the Republican majority and the raucous nature of its conservative wing, which has caused trouble for party leaders in the past decade.

After nominating speeches for the three candidates, voting has begun. It is expected to fall along party lines, with the wild card being the number of votes for Rep. Andy Biggs (R., Ariz.), as a determined group of GOP holdouts look to mount opposition to the official party pick, Kevin McCarthy of California. All Democrats are expected to vote for their nominee, Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Mr. McCarthy needs to get the support of a majority present and voting, and many lawmakers expect him to fall short in the first round.

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