US House still without speaker as McCarthy keeps falling short

January 6, 2023 12:05 pm

US House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has failed to secure a majority in nine ballots so far. [Source: Aljazeera]

It was all supposed to be a formality that plays out every two years on January 3.

The newly elected US House of Representatives convenes; the outgoing speaker dismisses the previous chamber; the majority party elects its leader as a speaker, and the new speaker swears in members-elect. Then, Congress can get to work.

Not so this time around. Three days and ten ballots later, the House has yet to choose a speaker, with top Republican Kevin McCarthy failing to secure a majority again and again amid opposition from far-right members of his own party.

Article continues after advertisement

McCarthy received 201 votes in the first two rounds of voting on Thursday, a tally that dropped to 200 in the following two rounds. Each time, he was well short of the 218 he needs, as Republican dissenters largely rallied behind Congressman Byron Donalds.

A second-term Florida representative, Donalds received as many as 19 votes in one of Thursday’s three votes.

Representative Matt Gaetz, a ringleader in the anti-McCarthy camp, cast his vote twice for former President Donald Trump, who – despite the investigations he is facing – could technically serve as speaker. The ex-president has endorsed McCarthy.

All 212 House Democrats voted for Hakeem Jeffries on Thursday, a unified position that top Democratic Congresswoman Katherine Clark said stood in stark contrast with the Republican turmoil.

“Democrats stand united behind our leader because Hakeem Jeffries stands united for the American people,” Clark said on the House floor.

“The historic dysfunction that we are seeing, this intra-party fight that the American people have been drawn into, is imperiling our national security. It will imperil the ability of this government to deliver basic services.”

The House will hold another round of voting or adjourn on Thursday. The last time the House went to a 10th ballot was in 1859.

They also want a bigger say on the House Rules and Appropriations committees, which would allow them to influence the US government budget and help decide which bills can move forward in the chamber.

Republican Congressman Dan Bishop, who has been voting against McCarthy, told MSNBC on Thursday that the party was working for “continued improvements” to the legislative process, which he said has “seen progress”.

Yet, some anti-McCarthy holdouts still appeared confident that they will be able to continue to derail his bid.

“We’ve only increased with votes … in opposition to Kevin McCarthy. We suspect that that trend is likely to continue,” Gaetz told Fox News on Wednesday.

Although the House last failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot in 1923, anti-McCarthy Republicans are portraying the deadlock as a healthy debate that is beneficial to US democracy.

But the House cannot function without a speaker.

But Amash’s bid also is most likely to fail. The former congressman lost his status as a rising star in the Republican Party after regularly criticising then-President Trump before leaving Congress.

There have also been suggestions that Democrats and Republicans can join together to choose a moderate speaker. However, in all nine ballots so far, Democratic lawmakers have unanimously backed Jeffries and ruled out helping Republicans.