Washington, Jan 4 (IANS) The new Republican-majority (222) US House of Representatives is without a new Speaker due to strong divisions within the party as favourite Kevin McCarthy failed thrice on Tuesday in reaching the magic figure of 218.
Democrat Nancy Pelosi, 80 plus, held the post several times before the Democrats lost control of the chamber in the 2022 mid-term polls.
The Speaker is not an ornamental post but the 2nd in line for presidency after the Vice President, while having quite a lot of power over legislation, and hence it is a much sought after post. McCarthy, despite his immense experience, moderate approach and capabilities, is facing strong opposition from a group of party lawmakers.
The stunning inability to elect a Speaker as the Congress opened with the new House of Representatives on January 3 highlighted deep fissures within the Republican Party over strategy and vision, grinding the House to a halt and raising fresh questions about the future of the GOP, NBC reported.
“We have to make a choice today: Are we going to be the party of the radical 2 per cent? Because that’s what it comes down to,” a frustrated Republican member from Florida, Kat Cammack, said after a caucus meeting. “Kevin McCarthy will be the speaker of the House – and I don’t care if it’s the first ballot or the 97th ballot.”
The rebels dealt a demoralising effect on the Republican Party, which thought it had gained a stronghold by retaking the house in the November midterms, albeit with a wafer-thin majority of nine seats, and hoped to use the new found majority to demonstrate to Americans how it would govern – before the 2024 presidential elections while asking voters to give control of the White House and the Senate then.
Instead, the Republicans displays of dysfunction is posing a major threat to further create divisions – those disassociating themselves from former President Donald Trump — threatening to alienate the independent and centre-right voters, who drifted toward Democrats in 2022, causing the GOPs below par performance in the November midterms.
“I think it’s a problem for the party. It absolutely is,” said former Representative Mick Mulvaney, a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, home to the rebels. “How is it not a problem for the party if we can’t even decide on who our leader’s going to be,” he said, as per the NBC.
The House adjourned Tuesday after three failed ballots – the first time in a century a Speaker’s election had gone past the first vote – and with no clear path forward, media reports said.
The stalemate was only throwing up in public that there are more divisions in the narrow House majority, which will have to compromise with a Democratic-controlled Senate and President Joe Biden to keep the government functioning and avert an economic crisis. The outgoing house averted a shutdown of the government by voting for Biden’s $1.7 trillion package in a bipartisan manner.
The conservative Republicans felt that McCarthy failing thrice to get elected had come as a bad omen for the GOP which was hoping to unify a caucus of moderates and far-right members to advance conservative legislation, reports said. “They hurt the team. They’re giving us a black eye in the public,” Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska, a moderate Republican in a district Biden carried in 2020, said of the McCarthy critics.
To the rebels, many from deep-red districts, sinking McCarthy seems a justified rebuke to a Republican establishment that they feel has long failed to live up to the expectations of their voters, the NBC said.
“In the short run, the objective is to get a better Speaker than Kevin McCarthy,” said Representative Bob Good, a leader of the anti-McCarthy push. “In the long run, it’s to deal a blow against a Republican system that’s hostile to conservatives, that has contempt for the Republican base of voters that send us to Washington.”
As McCarthy failed to get the votes, GOP’s number 2, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, virtually pleaded with colleagues to support McCarthy so the House could pursue conservative objectives such as bolstering border security and energy independence. “We won a majority talking about fixing those problems. But we can’t start fixing those problems until we elect Kevin McCarthy as our next Speaker,” he said.
Representative Mike Gallagher, of Wisconsin, said: “It’s important that we, as the House majority – and the only part of the legislative branch where the Republicans have control – do demonstrate competence and common sense, demonstrate that we are the adults in the room.”
Representative Chip Roy, of Texas, swiftly rejected his request, standing up to nominate McCarthy-supporting Jim Jordan, of Ohio, for Speaker. “This is about the future of the country. This is about the direction of the country,” he said, demanding that the caucus find a leader with a plan to stop “spending money we don’t have” and lower the debt.
Jordan has said he did not want to be Speaker, and he called on his Republican colleagues to unite behind McCarthy, even as Democrats mocked their GOP counterparts, and said things would only get worse.
Even as the stalemate continues, amid fears over legislation and governing if they fail to stand up to the rebels now, there is little cause in the Republicans to team up with Democrats to elect a consensus Speaker and teach the far right a lesson, media reports said.
Kevin McCarthy fails to get elected as House Speaker amid divisions in GOP