Hardline Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives voted against Kevin McCarthy’s bid to be the speaker for the eleventh time on Thursday, while his supporters worked behind closed doors to try to make a deal that could work.
Even though McCarthy offered to limit his own power, the voting brought the House to a level of chaos not seen since just before the Civil War. This made people question the party’s ability to control power. After the 11th vote, the House left for the third time this week without choosing a speaker. On Friday at noon (17:00 GMT), lawmakers will meet again.
McCarthy’s opponents say they don’t trust him to fight for the deep spending cuts and other restrictions they want to put on President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate. But some Republicans hoped that the California Republican and at least some of the 20 hard-line conservatives who have always voted against his candidacy could come to an agreement. Representative Patrick McHenry, who supports McCarthy and is set to lead a top congressional committee, said, “Things are coming together in a very healthy way.”
“We don’t know how long it will take. But people are interested, and that’s why I’m hopeful, “he said. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican Representative, says that a possible deal would allow a vote on putting a limit on how long someone can serve in Congress.
But McCarthy’s supporters stopped short of saying that the deadlock would be broken soon. Because it couldn’t pick a leader, the 435-member House is now powerless. It can’t even swear in newly elected members, let alone hold hearings, talk about legislation, or look into Biden and his administration.
In the midterm elections in November, Republicans only won a 222-212 majority in the House. This means that McCarthy can’t afford to lose the support of more than four Republicans while Democrats come together behind their own candidate.
McCarthy, who was backed for the job by former President Donald Trump, offered the holdouts a number of concessions that would weaken the role of the speaker. Political allies warned that if McCarthy got the job, it would be even harder.
In each vote this week, at least 200 Republicans have voted for McCarthy. Even though less than 10% of Republican lawmakers have voted against him, that is enough to keep him from getting the 218 votes he needs to replace Nancy Pelosi as speaker. “What you see on this floor doesn’t mean we’re broken,” said Republican Representative Anna Paulina Luna as she put forward Byron Donalds, McCarthy’s opponent, for the 10th vote.
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Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who backs McCarthy and is one of the most outspoken conservatives in the House, said, “I can tell you there are some good things going on.” “I think things are going to change.”
But some of McCarthy’s opponents didn’t seem like they were going to give up. “This ends in one of two ways: either Kevin McCarthy drops out of the race, or we put him in a box that he can’t get out of,” said Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, who voted for Trump for speaker.
As speaker, McCarthy would be in charge of setting the agenda for the chamber. He would be second in line to become president, after Vice President Kamala Harris. He would be able to stop Biden’s plans for legislation and start investigations into the president’s family and administration before the 2024 election.
A person familiar with the talks said that McCarthy met with the holdouts late at night and gave them more power over what bills come up for a vote. He also said that any single member could call a vote to get rid of him, which is something that helped push at least one previous Republican speaker, John Boehner, to retire.
These concessions could help McCarthy win over some of the holdouts, but if he wins the speakership, they would also make him more vulnerable to the hardliners for the next two years. Even some Democrats, who have mostly just watched the drama of the last three days, are worried about this. “With every concession, he has to wake up every day and wonder if he’s still going to have his job,” Democratic Representative Richard Neal told reporters.
Since Republicans can’t agree on a leader, it’s not clear if they will shut down the government or let it go bankrupt later this year to get steep spending cuts. Some of the holdouts say they think McCarthy or any other Republican leader will take this approach.
If McCarthy fails to bring Republicans together in the end, they would have to look for another way to work together. Steve Scalise, the second-highest ranking Republican in the House, and Representative Jim Jordan, who have both supported McCarthy, are both possible candidates. When the holdouts chose Jordan on Tuesday, he got 20 votes.
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