Kevin McCarthy loses speaker votes after the chaos in the US House

On Tuesday night, the House adjourned without a speaker, the first time since 1923 that a first-round vote failed to install a leader.

Image source – Financial Times

After capturing control of the lower House in the November elections, the commencement of a new Congress was expected to be the Republican Party’s victory lap. On the other hand, McCarthy faced internal resistance and was remembered for all the wrong reasons.

So far, the California congressman has been defeated in three consecutive votes for Speaker, and it is unknown what path he will take when the House reconvenes on Wednesday. They will vote until a majority is obtained.

Even if Mr McCarthy finds a way, observers warn that the instability on the House floor portends a tough two-year fight between moderate and right-wing Republicans.

A Republican party that cannot successfully govern the lower chamber of Congress may be hampered in carrying out some of its essential tasks, such as enacting spending bills or increasing the debt ceiling.

Negotiations made him appear weak.

Image source – CNN

McCarthy just needed a few votes to become Speaker after Republicans barely gained control of the House in November. As a result, a group of adamantly conservative Republicans got together to oppose his candidacy.

Republican observers think the schism was inevitable.

“Kevin McCarthy has not made friends with certain segments of the caucus for a while, he’s made a lot of enemies,” said one Republican lobbyist, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about Tuesday’s vote. “There’s people who don’t like him for political reasons, for personal reasons.”

He spoke with his detractors, who see him as too mainstream and power-hungry, and made concessions in an attempt to gain their support. 

At one point, he allegedly agreed to amend House rules to make it easier to remove a sitting Speaker, thereby limiting his power.

“The fact he was negotiating with the Republicans at all made him look very, very weak to the point of being desperate,” the Republican lobbyist said.

Kevin McCarthy opponents are encouraged.

The futility of such a plan became clear on Tuesday.

Mr McCarthy failed to achieve the minimum 218-vote barrier twice in a row. Even though Republicans own 222 seats, a coalition of 19 hard-right Republicans has formed to oppose him. They oppose McCarthy for intellectual and personal reasons, but they also see an opportunity to leverage the Republicans’ slim majority to pressure him to make further concessions.

In one of the most dramatic scenes of the day, they nominated Representative Jim Jordan to oppose him, only seconds after Mr Jordan himself recommended Mr McCarthy for Speaker.

Despite the fact that Mr Jordan, a prominent member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, implored Republicans in the third round of voting to “unite around” Mr McCarthy, 20 Republicans voted for Mr Jordan, denying Mr McCarthy victory yet again.

Meanwhile, Democrats stood firm behind their party’s new leader, New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries.

Some couldn’t help but make light of their Republican colleagues’ bad day. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona congressman, tweeted that Democrats were “breaking out the popcorn,” and included a photo of the delicacy as proof.

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