US: Still no Speaker after 11 votes - Dispatch Weekly

January 6, 2023 - Reading time: 4 minutes

​In a standstill of US government not seen since the Civil War, Kevin McCarthy (pictured), the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, has failed in his most recent attempt to be elected Speaker.

On the third day of voting on Thursday, a group of right-wing members of his party thwarted an 11th attempt to elect him.

The standoff has prevented the House from swearing in new members or passing legislation since the Republicans took control of the chamber in the midterm elections in November.

The House will reconvene on Friday.

The lower chamber of Congress has not voted this many times to elect a Speaker since 1860, when the United States union was disintegrating over the issue of slavery. There were 44 rounds of voting back then.

Twenty conservative Republican members are refusing to give Mr. McCarthy the 218 votes he needs.

Despite former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the California congressman, the rebels have doubts about his commitment to the Conservative cause.

Ralph Norman of South Carolina, one of the dissidents, said that he does not trust Mr. McCarthy.

In the weeks leading up to this impasse, the congressman claimed that Mr. McCarthy’s team had threatened them with political reprisal if they did not toe the line.

According to Mr. Norman: “We were going to be kicked off committees. We’re going to lose all of our privileges.”

Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the first black person to ever lead a party in Congress, had unanimous support from the minority Democrats as they continued to elect him as their leader. However, it is improbable that he could persuade six Republican defectors to support him for Speaker.

At noon (17:00 GMT) on Friday, the second anniversary of a riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol, lawmakers in the bitterly divided chamber will re-assemble.

Despite the opposition, Mr. McCarthy, the leading House Republican since 2019, has received the support of over 200 Republicans, or over 90% of his caucus. But as their agenda stagnates, they are getting impatient.

Republican Brian Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania stated: “I’m quite concerned about that because I’m on the intelligence committee.” He noted that until MPs are sworn in, neither he nor the other committee members could get access to secret briefings.

The Speaker does not necessarily need to be a member of the House, so Florida Republican rebel Matt Gaetz cast a protest vote for Mr. Trump on Thursday to fill the position.

“This ends in one of two ways: either Kevin McCarthy withdraws from the race or we construct a straitjacket that he is unwilling to evade,” he said.

Republican Lauren Boebert of Colorado suggested an Oklahoma lawmaker, urging her fellow Republicans to look past Mr. McCarthy.

She said: “The Republican Party has to get to a position where we start examining what life looks like after Kevin McCarthy.”

In addition to other concessions, Mr. McCarthy has promised the rebels a seat on the powerful rules committee, which determines the parameters of the legislative debate in the chamber. Additionally, he consented to reduce the requirement to just one House member in order to allow for a vote on whether to remove the Speaker.

He was observed huddling with assistants and engaging in animated one-on-one conversations with co-workers during Thursday’s eight-hour session.

After Vice President Kamala Harris, the House Speaker is the next in line to the President. In the House, they set the agenda, and without them, no legislative work can be done.

In the 435-seat chamber, Republicans narrowly defeated Democrats in November by a vote of 222 to 212. The Senate is still run by Democrats.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.