US House in chaos after Kevin McCarthy loses speaker votes.
In a day filled with high drama in politics, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was repeatedly unsuccessful in his attempt to become Speaker in the US House of Representatives.
The House ended without any Speaker on the night of Tuesday, the first time since 1923 that they failed to select the speaker after the first round vote.
The beginning of a new Congress was meant to be a celebration of those in the Republican Party as it took control of the lower chamber following the November elections. However, President McCarthy was confronted by a revolt within his own party and caused a stir for the wrong reasons.
A California congressman has lost three times for Speaker in the last three weeks but it’s not clear how his chances of winning are going to be in the event that the House comes back on Wednesday to begin the process over again. The House will continue to vote until a majority is achieved.
If Mr. McCarthy is able to find a way to get his way, experts warn that the chaos in the House will be a sign of a turbulent two years of right-wing and moderate Republicans in conflict with one opposing each other.
A Republican party that is unable to effectively control the lower house of Congress may hinder its ability to fulfill certain of its primary duties, like adopting legislation to increase spending or the debt limit.
Negotiations have made him appear weak’
Republicans have narrowly gained majority control over the House in November, which means Mr. McCarthy was left with just a few votes left to use when he tried to be Speaker. This allowed a small group of conservatives with hardline views to come together and oppose the nomination.
The division was long overdue as per Republican observers.
“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 asked for anonymity in order to discuss the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. “There’s people who don’t like him for political reasons, for personal reasons.”
Mr. McCarthy began negotiations with his opponents who viewed him as too popular and powerful, offering concessions to win their votes. At one point, he was willing to alter House rules so that it was easier to get rid of a Speaker and give his adversaries an overwhelming chance to test his power.
— David Shukman (@DavidShukman) January 4, 2023
“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 claimed.
The opposition feels empowered
The absurdity of this strategy was made clear on Tuesday.
In three consecutive elections, Mr. McCarthy was unable to cross the threshold of 218 votes. Even though Republicans hold 222 seats, 19 hard-right Republicans were able to consolidate their opposition to him.
They oppose Mr. McCarthy on personal and ideological motives, but also consider it an opportunity to profit from Republicans’ small majority to force concessions from McCarthy.
They will “never back down” Representative Rob Good, a Virginia Republican, spoke to reporters on Tuesday.
Then, in one of the day’s most dramatic events the Democrats even proposed Rep. Jim Jordan to challenge him only moments after Mr Jordan himself announced his nomination for McCarthy for Speaker. McCarthy as Speaker.
After Ms. Jordan, who has been a prominent leader within the far-right Freedom Caucus – urged Republicans to “rally around” Mr McCarthy in the third round voting 20 Republicans were in favor of Mr Jordan and denied the victory to Mr McCarthy.
While this was happening, Democrats remained unified behind their new party leader , Representative Hakeem Jeffries from New York.
Some could not resist joking with their Republican colleagues about their party’s afternoon struggles. A congressman from Arizona, Ruben Gallego from Arizona posted on Twitter saying that Democrats are “breaking the popcorn out,” and included a picture of the popcorn.
What options does McCarthy have now?
Political analysts in Washington have been spinning different theories on how it might be resolved. The predictions they made to BBC included everything from the possible (Mr McCarthy holds out and is victorious, but leaves severely weakened) to the completely feasible (he is a bit hesitant and supports his second-in-command Rep.
Steve Scalise of Louisiana). One idea was a bit fanciful (five Republicans decide to vote for Mr. Jeffries as being a Democrat and give to him the majority control over the House).
In the current situation, Mr. McCarthy is currently “essentially hostage to one side of his party,” said Ruth Bloch Rubin, a political scientist at the University of Chicago who studies the partisanship of politicians.
Mr. McCarthy has stated that he will not give any more concessions, however, he may have the option of choosing. He may try to convince stubborn lawmakers by offering them lucrative committee assignments or even new leadership positions.
“He’s got to give the people who are against him something to hang their hat on,” said Aaron Cutler, a lobbyist who worked with the former Congressman Eric Cantor, another politician who was sacked by the conservative opposition. Another Republican lobbyist believed that there was “no path to victory, at all, period.”
The group will meet for the fourth time Wednesday, although it’s not certain what will happen if the impasse is resolved.
“We haven’t heard anything new from McCarthy,” one of the conservatives who remains Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, said to reporters. “So I guess we’ll just keep doing this.”