After the parliamentary elections in November, Congress met for the first time on Tuesday in a new constellation. Republicans have taken control of the House of Representatives – in the Senate, the Democrats, headed by President Joe Biden, still have a slim majority. The Republicans’ bitter internecine struggle for leadership in the House of Representatives has been going on for weeks. But now things turned out to be worse than expected for McCarthy.
The position of chamber speaker, which has been held in recent years by Democrat Nancy Pelosi, is third in the national ranking after the president and vice president. The selection is usually a formality. But many of his party colleagues rebelled against McCarthy and had already made it clear before the election that they did not want to vote for McCarthy. He makes a number of concessions to his opponents, because given the slim majority of Republicans in the chamber, he counts on almost every vote.
For McCarthy, his defeat in the election is a public exposure that also shows the internal turmoil of the party. It has been a hundred years since a candidate for election to the House of Representatives did not win the necessary majority on the first ballot: in 1923, it took nine ballots to elect a leader. At that time it took several days.
The election of the President is the first major act of the newly elected House of Representatives. And until the presidency is clarified, nothing works: the House of Representatives cannot begin its work, not even new deputies can be sworn in.
In the first and second rounds, McCarthy received only 203 out of 434 votes – he would have needed 218. 19 party mates refused to vote for him in both attempts. It was previously expected that a large number of his party colleagues would not support him. On the third ballot he lost another vote of his order.
After the first ballot, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan nominated McCarthy for a second attempt and urged his party colleagues to close ranks. But right after that, one of McCarthy’s staunchest opponents, Rep. Matt Gaetz, struck out — and of all people, Jordan was nominated. Jordan is a stalwart of former President Donald Trump, eventually rallying all 19 opponents behind him in the second round.
McCarthy was belligerent just before the session and said, “I hold the record for the longest speech in plenary.” He has no problem setting a record for most votes in the House of Representatives vote.
Even if McCarthy eventually prevailed, he would emerge weak from the struggle and would have some trouble marshalling a majority on the floor of Congress for years to come.
Visibly upset, McCarthy revealed on Tuesday that he was told on Monday that he would only get the necessary votes if he gave certain positions and budgets to certain members of the group. Even his rival, Gates, has said bluntly that he does not care whether the Democratic nominee wins the election in case of doubt. According to McCarthy, his opponents are concerned only with personal progress and not with the state. There may be a “battle” in the plenary of the chamber, but it is about the whole faction and the country, “and that’s fine with me.”
The House Republican faction, like the party as a whole, is torn between right-wing supporters of Trump and more moderate party members. Faced with a slim majority, McCarthy has to unite the various wings behind him and even recruit members from the fringes of his faction to become leader. Democrats do not have a chance to appoint the president themselves because they are the smallest faction in the House.
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