Right-wing Republicans block Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become US House speaker

McCarthy fails three ballots to get the 218 votes needed to become a speaker
The last time the US House of Representatives failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot was 1923.
Republican leader vows to stay in the race

WASHINGTON (AP) — The new U.S. Congress was thrown into chaos Tuesday when right-wing renegade Republicans blocked front-runner Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker of the House in a series of humiliating votes seen as a rebuke to party establishment.

The California congressman needed a simple majority to be elected as Washington’s top lawmaker, who presides over House affairs and is second in line for the presidency.

But for the first time in a century, Republicans were unable to pick a speaker in the first three rounds of voting to bite their nails, given the blanket coverage on American network television.

Rather than celebrate his new control of the House, the party is facing a protracted fight to choose a speaker who could further deepen internal divisions and jeopardize McCarthy’s political career.

The 57-year-old needed 218 votes in the House, which moved to a narrow 222-212 Republican majority after last year’s midterm elections.

But he failed to align party rebels, including several high-profile allies of former President Donald Trump, and was shocked by his own side’s 19 “no” votes in each of the first two ballots, rising to 20 in the second round. Second round. third.

His performance was so weak that he lost to Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on each of the three opening ballots, though there is little doubt that a Republican will ultimately claim the speaker’s gavel.

McCarthy has long coveted the role, having dropped out of the race in 2015 amid a series of blunders and a right-wing revolt.

‘The following steps’
This time, the far-right rebels duped him once again, despite giving in to calls for him to push aggressive investigations of Democrats, including President Joe Biden, after taking control of the House.

Lawmakers agreed to postpone the session until Wednesday amid a growing push among Republicans to regroup overnight, lick their wounds and formulate a strategy to turn catastrophic defeat into an unlikely face-saving victory.

“The reality is that Rep. Kevin McCarthy doesn’t have the votes,” Florida’s Byron Donalds said in a statement before the adjournment, urging party conference members to “recess and convene” to seek a breakthrough. .

The last time it took more than one round of voting to choose a speaker at the start of a new Congress was a century ago, in 1923. A speaker selection process in 1855 took 133 rounds of voting over two months.

McCarthy, who had been trying to prevent small cabals from wandering into the room to conduct their own negotiations, initially planned to keep members in the room and voting until he could force their rivals to submit.

However, some lawmakers and staffers who back McCarthy had started the day by saying he should retire if he couldn’t secure the deck in the second round, US media reported.

The House is expected to hold more votes starting at noon (1700 GMT) on Wednesday until someone with a majority emerges, and it is not out of the question that a new candidate who has not been part of the process could come to the fore.

One obstacle to McCarthy’s anointing was the perception by some on the far right of his party that he is not loyal enough to Trump, who is running again for the White House after losing to Biden in 2020.

No credible Republican alternative to McCarthy had emerged with the postponement, though an obvious name would be incoming House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a McCarthyite who has nonetheless made it clear that he has ambitions of his own. the.

However, the “Never Kevin” crowd is likely to view Scalise as more of the same.

McCarthy, who defied a subpoena from the House panel investigating the 2021 storming of the Capitol, has already promised hardliners investigations of the Biden family and administration, as well as the FBI and CIA.

But the more he is seen caving in to the right, the more likely he is to alienate moderates, sparking an all-out war between Senate and House Republicans, where little love is lost already.

It wasn’t all gloom for Republicans in Congress.

The Senate also met for its new term on Tuesday, with Mitch McConnell, who leads the Republican minority, breaking the record for longest-serving Senate leader.

“There is so much unnecessary confusion in the Republican Party,” Trump posted on Truth Social after the House adjourned Tuesday night, insisting on blaming McConnell in particular for the divisions, and without mentioning McCarthy or the chaos of the House. Camera.

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