Three days went by and voting was held 11 times to get a person elected as the US House of Representatives speaker, but they haven’t succeeded yet amid the differences among the Republicans ranks are not being resolved.
So the result is that Kevin McCarthy – the Republican leader of the House of Representatives – failed in his latest bid to get elected speaker on Thursday in a paralysis of US government not seen since the pre-Civil War era.
Republicans took over the House in November’s midterm elections, but the impasse has left the chamber unable to swear in members or pass bills.
In November, they won the House by a slender margin of 222 to 212 in the 435-seat chamber. Democrats retained control of the Senate.
Not since 1860, when the United States’ union was fraying over the issue of slavery, has the lower chamber of Congress voted so many times to pick a Speaker. Back then it took 44 rounds of ballots.
A group of 20 hard-line Republican lawmakers are refusing to give McCarthy the necessary 218 votes. The rebels are sceptical of the California congressman’s conservative bona fides, despite his endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
One of the dissidents, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, says he simply does not trust Mr McCarthy. The congressman said McCarthy’s team had threatened political retaliation against them if they did not fall in line, in the weeks leading up this deadlock.
“We were going to be thrown off committees,” Norman said. “We’re going to lose every privilege we had.
He added, “And we’d basically told them, ‘If we can’t ask questions, if we can’t vet out the most powerful person that we’re getting ready to put in office, then we’re out.'”
Meanwhile, the minority Democrats continued to vote in unison for their leader, New York’s Hakeem Jeffries, the first black person ever to lead a party in Congress. But it seems unlikely that he could win over six Republican defectors to become Speaker.
Lawmakers in the sharply divided chamber will reconvene at noon (17:00 GMT) on Friday, the second anniversary of a riot by Trump supporters at the US Capitol.
Despite the holdouts, McCarthy – who has served as the top House Republican since 2019 – has won support from more than 200 Republicans, over 90 percent of his caucus. They are growing restless as their agenda stalls.
“I’m very worried about it and I’m on the intelligence committee,” said Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick. He added that he and the other committee members are not able to received classified briefings until lawmakers are sworn in.
Rules do not require the speaker to be a member of the House, and on Thursday, Florida Republican rebel Matt Gaetz cast a protest ballot for Donald Trump to serve in the role.
“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.
Earlier, McCarthy was forced to propose more key concessions in his push to get 218 votes but he failed to get the desired goal.
One of these is about rules change which would allow just one member to call for a vote to oust a sitting speaker.
The rebellion against McCarthy is led by a small but vocal group of ultraconservative Republicans. The rebels also include a larger group of lawmakers who have long agitated for changes in the way the House operates, and a set of newcomers.
The rebels complain that the House’s power structures give leaders too much influence and want deeper changes that would increase the influence of smaller groups in the legislative process.
Amid a razor-thin majority and Democrats opposing him unanimously, McCarthy must secure near-total support among Republicans to win the top post.
The situation has grown dire for McCarthy’s political future as Republican allies are beginning to fear that the House GOP leader may not be able to pull off his gamble for speaker if the fight goes much longer.
In two more concessions, the sources said, he’s also agreed to allow for more members of the Freedom Caucus to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee, which dictates how and whether bills come to the floor, and to vote on a handful of bills that are priorities for the holdouts, including proposing term limits on members and a border security plan.