Republican front-runner Kevin McCarthy has failed in his ninth attempt to become Speaker of the US House of Representatives in a three-day standoff that has led to a political crisis. The house moved to host the 10th round, the largest since 1859.
McCarthy, a favorite of the Republican establishment but a scoundrel of the far right, made sweeping concessions overnight to crush an uprising of about 20 hardliners in his own camp blocking his attempts to become the nation’s top lawmaker.
But his initiatives appear to have fallen on deaf ears as he failed to defeat any opponent in the first vote on Thursday, the eighth since the House reopened with a weak Republican majority.
The 57-year-old Californian has already been humiliated for failing to secure the gavel in six rounds of voting in a chaotic 48 hours, trailing fellow Democrat Hakim Jeffries each time, though neither managed to secure the required majority. . .
“I hope that Republicans in the House of Representatives today will stop bickering, slandering and treachery so that we can win the support of the American people,” Jeffries told reporters at the US Capitol.
McCarthy overnight crossed one of his red lines by agreeing to lower the threshold required for a forced vote to oust the speaker from any party’s majority by just one member, thereby jeopardizing his chances of a long tenure in office.
He also reportedly signaled he was willing to give the ultra-conservative Liberty House caucus two or three seats on the powerful rules committee, the speaker’s mechanism to oversee voting in the chamber.
His opponents also claim they have secured promises to limit the number of members of parliament to three terms, and the political organization associated with McCarthy to stop running moderates against far-right candidates for safe Republican seats.
US security ‘under threat’
The 2023 speaker race is the first in a century to require multiple rounds of voting. No House business can proceed without a presiding officer, meaning that elected legislators must keep voting until someone wins a majority.
Until then, the House will not be able to take oaths of office, form committees, pass laws, or launch any of the investigations Republicans have promised against President Joe Biden.
The three Republican lawmakers who chair the national security committees also warned in an open letter Thursday that the House of Representatives cannot currently exercise oversight of the Pentagon or the intelligence community.
“We cannot allow personal politics to endanger the security of the United States,” they said.
McCarthy had long dreamed of becoming Speaker, but Tuesday and Wednesday were some of the most humiliating days of his career as he failed to win a majority after the vote, despite the fact that the Republicans controlled the House of Representatives.
The only significant change in the vote was that Donald Trump, who claims to return to the White House and harbors no speaker ambitions, received his first nod from Florida Congressman Matt Goetz.
McCarthy’s failure is seen as another indication of Trump’s weakening influence over the party, as the MP’s share of the vote actually fell after the former president endorsed him on Wednesday.
Texas conservative Chip Roy indicated that McCarthy’s proposed compromises could reduce the number of so-called “20 Taliban” opposed to his bid for the Speakership to around 10 detractors.
But in the end, 21 of his 221 fellow Republicans opposed him – the same number as in all three of Wednesday’s votes – and he can only afford to lose four.
In many cases, McCarthy’s critics lack specific objections to his policies, but instead state that they see him as unreliable, lacking political philosophy, and motivated only by the desire for power.
The House of Representatives could go straight to the eighth vote for the Speaker’s seat, though the McCarthyists could try to get a delay to continue negotiations.
The Republican’s top allies are still hopeful that reducing opposition to single digits in upcoming voting rounds could increase pressure on remaining opponents to follow suit. But others fear that the risky strategy of handing over the shop to the party’s most extreme fringes will eventually spark a backlash among moderates.
McCarthy-friendly Texan Pete Sessions told CNN Wednesday that his side can only afford three or four more inconclusive votes before they need to start looking for a less divisive candidate. “I’m telling you, these 19 people dug in,” he said of the Never Kevins rebel group.