Kevin McCarthy: U.S. House speaker stalemate continues
For a long and frustrating third day, divided Republicans kept the U.S. House Speaker’s chair empty Thursday as party leader Kevin McCarthy failed repeatedly in an agonizing string of ballots to win enough GOP votes to seize the chamber’s gavel . The pressure was building as McCarthy lost a seventh, eighth and historic ninth round of voting, matching the number needed last time 100 years ago in a protracted battle to choose a speaker in a contentious election.
With his supporters and enemies locked in a stalemate, boredom and despair seemed to be on the rise, with no end in sight. Nevertheless, a 10th vote was started.
One McCarthy critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, voted for Donald Trump in two rounds, a symbolic but clear sign of the broader disagreements over the Republican Party’s future.
“It’s not happening,” said Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who nominated a new alternate, Oklahoma’s Kevin Hern, urging other Republicans to embrace a future without McCarthy: “We need a leader who isn’t a part of the broken system.” .”
McCarthy could be seen speaking one-to-one in whispered and animated conversations in the House chamber, and previously met privately with colleagues determined to persuade Republican holdouts to end the crippling debate his new GOP -Majority nullified.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks in the House chamber as the House of Representatives meets for its third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023. (AP Photo /Andrew Harnik)
“We have good discussions and I think everyone wants to find a solution,” McCarthy told reporters just before the House of Representatives collapsed in its third session.
The House of Representatives, which constitutes one half of Congress, is essentially at a standstill, unable to initiate the new session, swear in elected members and conduct official business.
But despite endless talks, signs of concessions and a public spectacle unparalleled in recent political memory, the way forward remained highly uncertain. What began as a political novelty, when for the first time since 1923 a candidate did not win the gavel on the first vote, has turned into a bitter Republican Party feud and a potential deepening of the crisis.
Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York was re-nominated by the Democrats. He won the most votes in each ballot, but also narrowly managed to get a majority. McCarthy finished second and gained no ground.
McCarthy resisted mounting pressure to somehow find the voices he needed or to step aside so the House could fully open and proceed with the business of government.
The new Republican chairs of the House foreign affairs, armed forces and intelligence committees all said national security was at risk.
New House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., speaks during a news conference as the House of Representatives battles to elect a speaker and open the 118th Congress with a new Republican majority on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, May 5 January, to convene. 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
“The Biden administration is uncontrolled and there is no oversight of the White House,” Republicans Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers and Mike Turner wrote in a joint statement. “We must not allow personal politics to endanger the safety and security of the United States.”
But McCarthy’s critics on the right flank seemed intent on waiting him out while it lasted.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., chairman of the Freedom Caucus, claimed McCarthy could not be trusted and tweeted his displeasure that negotiations for rule changes and other concessions were being made public.
“When confidentialities are abused and leaks are fixed, it’s even harder to trust,” he tweeted.
Republican officials repeatedly named Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, assuring that the stalemate, increasingly racial and political, would continue.
Donalds, who is black, is viewed as a rising party leader and GOP counterpoint to Democratic leader Jeffries, who is the first black leader of a major political party in the US Congress and is on course to one day become speaker himself.
Another black Republican, newly elected John James, nominated McCarthy on the seventh ballot as nominators became a roll call of the GOP’s rising stars. Florida veteran Brian Mast appeared to wipe away a tear when he nominated McCarthy on the eighth, insisting the California Republican was not like previous GOP speakers who are derided by conservatives. For the ninth ballot, a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, Troy Nehls of Texas, made the nomination. Newly elected for the 10th was Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, an immigrant from Mexico whose speech was accompanied by chants of “USA! USA!”
“This fight that we are fighting must end,” Nehls told his colleagues.
A new generation of conservative Republicans, many of whom support Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, are looking to turn business as usual on its head in Washington and have pledged to halt McCarthy’s rise without compromising on their priorities.
McCarthy has agreed to many of his opponents’ demands to gain support.
Holdouts, led by the chamber’s Freedom Caucus, are looking for ways to reduce the powers of the speaker’s office and give ordinary legislators more leverage — with seats on key committees and the ability to draft and amend bills in a more free form. all processes.
One of their key demands is the reintroduction of a rule that would allow a single lawmaker to introduce a motion to evict the chairman – essentially for the entire House of Representatives to vote to oust the speaker. It’s the same rule that an earlier era of Tea Party Republicans threatened to impeach Boehner, and McCarthy has resisted reinstating it.
But McCarthy’s opponents don’t all have the same grievances, and he may never be able to convince some of them. A small core group of Republicans appears unwilling to ever vote for McCarthy.
“I’m willing to vote for this person all night, all week, all month and never,” said Florida Republican Gaetz.
The polls so far have yielded almost the same result, 20 conservative holdouts still refuse to back McCarthy, leaving him well short of the 218 normally needed to win the hammer.
Indeed, McCarthy saw his support dwindle to 201 when a fellow Republican switched to “simple presence,” and later to 200. With a GOP majority of just 222 seats, he could not spare critics.
Thursday was a third long day. The new Republican majority was not expected to meet on Friday, the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. A prolonged and divisive debate would almost certainly underscore the fragility of American democracy after the attempted insurgency two years ago.
“We need to open the house and get on with the work of the people,” former spokeswoman for California Democrat Nancy Pelosi said in a tweet.
Some Republicans seemed increasingly uncomfortable with the way the party took the lead after the midterm elections, only to see the chamber turned upside down in its first few days in the new majority over the Speaker’s race.
Colorado Republican Ken Buck voted for McCarthy but said Wednesday he told him “he needs to figure out how to make a deal to move forward,” or eventually step aside for someone else.
Right-flank Conservatives, led by the Freedom Caucus and allied with former President Trump, appeared emboldened by the standoff — despite Trump’s public support for McCarthy.
The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to difficulties with Republicans, who now control the House, much like some previous Republican speakers, including John Boehner, have had trouble leading a rebellious right flank. The result: government closures, standoffs and Boehner’s early retirement.
The longest battle for the gavel began in late 1855 and dragged on for over two months, with 133 ballots cast during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.
AP writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.