Republicans fail to get House speaker after six rounds of votes

The new US House of Representatives is still without a speaker after two days of multiple voting after the Republicans failed to elect their leader, as they had won a majority in the midterm elections held in November last year.

It was convened on Tuesday (Jan 3) and six rounds of votes were held in two days but Kevin McCarthy faced a yet another defeat that forced him to propose more key concessions in his push to get 218 votes.

One of these is about rules change which would allow just one member to call for a vote to oust a sitting speaker, reported CNN while citing sources.

With McCarthy struggling to find a path forward, the House adjourned until 12 pm ET on Thursday as the House GOP majority has been stuck at a contentious stalemate amid opposition to McCarthy from a group of conservatives.

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.

McCarthy’s latest concession would be a significant win for hardline conservatives – after the California Republican had already proposed a five-member threshold, down from current conference rules that require half of the GOP to call for such a vote. But many more moderate members had been concerned about giving in to the far-right on this matter since it could weaken the speakership and cause chaos in the ranks.

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.

Meanwhile, in the fourth vote, McCarthy got 201 votes, two short of the 203 he received in the first vote on Tuesday. A candidate needs 218 votes to win the 435-member lower chamber of the US Congress.

The 20 McCarthy opponents, all of whom voted for Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, on Tuesday, switched their votes to the new conservative candidate Byron Donalds of Florida. Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York once again got all 212 Democratic votes.

In a change from Tuesday, Representative Victoria Spartz of Indiana voted “present”. She had voted for McCarthy in all three votes on Tuesday.

This is the first time in hundred years that the House speaker was not elected on the first ballot. The vote in 1923 was decided on the ninth ballot. Before that the 1869 speaker vote lasted to 60 ballots over the course of two months.

A speaker is elected with a majority of votes for a specific candidate, not counting “present” votes or absences.

McCarthy, the leading contender to replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi as speaker, has failed to convince 20 conservative Republicans to back him. Congressional business cannot begin until a speaker is chosen as the House needs a speaker for the members to take oath.

President Joe Biden is facing a Republican majority in the House for the first time, but the White House said it will not intervene. The Democrats, however, control the Senate.

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