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Hardline Republicans are railing against McCarthy’s candidacy for House Speaker

Hardline Republicans are railing against McCarthy’s candidacy for House Speaker

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WASHINGTON, Jan 5 (Reuters) – Hardline Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives rejected Kevin McCarthy’s nomination for the 11th time on Thursday as his supporters worked behind closed doors in hopes of cementing a deal that could deliver success.

The vote plunged the House into a level of dysfunction not seen since the tumultuous era just before the Civil War, even as McCarthy offered to limit his own influence, raising questions about the party’s ability to hold power.

After the 11th vote, the House adjourned for the third time this week without electing a Speaker. Lawmakers will reconvene at noon (17:00 GMT) on Friday.

McCarthy’s opponents say they don’t trust him to fight for the deep spending cuts and other restrictions they want to impose on President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But some Republicans were hoping for a deal between the California Republican and at least some of the 20 hard-line conservatives who opposed his candidacy in vote after vote.

“Things are coming together in a very healthy way,” said Congressman Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy supporter who is poised to lead a congressional subcommittee.

“We don’t know the time frame. But the commitment is there and that’s why I’m optimistic,” he said.

Among other things, a possible deal would allow a vote on term limits for members of Congress, according to Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.

But McCarthy’s supporters did not predict an imminent resolution of the impasse.

Because of its inability to elect a leader, the 435-seat chamber has been declared impotent — unable to even formally swear in newly elected members, let alone hold hearings, consider legislation or scrutinize Biden and his administration.

Republicans won a slim 222-212 majority in the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections, meaning McCarthy cannot afford to lose the support of more than four Republicans as Democrats rally around their own nominee.

McCarthy, who was backed by former President Donald Trump for the job, offered candidates a set of concessions that would weaken the speaker’s role, which political allies warned would make the job even more difficult if he gets it.

At least 200 Republicans backed McCarthy in each of the votes this week. Less than 10 percent of Republican lawmakers voted against him, but they were enough to deny him the 218 votes needed to succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi as speaker.

“What you see on this floor doesn’t mean we’re dysfunctional,” Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna said when she nominated McCarthy’s challenger, Byron Donalds, for the 10th ballot.


“I can tell you there are some good things happening,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, a supporter of McCarthy, who is among the most outspoken conservatives in the House. “I think we’re going to see some movement.”

But some of McCarthy’s opponents showed no signs of backing down.

“It ends up being one of two ways: Either Kevin McCarthy drops out of the race or we create a straitjacket that he’s not willing to avoid,” said Republican Rep. Matt Goetz, who voted for Trump for speaker.

As speaker, McCarthy will hold a post that typically sets the agenda for the chamber and is second in line to the presidency after Vice President Kamala Harris. He would be empowered to thwart Biden’s legislative agenda and launch investigations into the president’s family and administration in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.

In a late-night negotiating session, McCarthy offered opponents more influence over what legislation would be voted on, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

He also proposed allowing any individual member to call a vote that could potentially remove him from office — a move that helped prompt at least one previous Republican speaker, John Boehner, to retire.

Those concessions could potentially help McCarthy win over some opponents, but would make him more vulnerable to hardliners in the remaining two years if he ends up winning the presidency.

It even alarmed some Democrats, who have largely been bystanders in the drama of the past three days.

“With every concession, he has to wake up every day wondering if he’s still going to have his job,” Democratic Rep. Richard Neal told reporters.

The failure to agree on a leader also raises questions about whether Republicans will force a government shutdown or risk default later this year in an effort to achieve steep spending cuts. Some opponents say they expect McCarthy or another Republican leader to take that approach.

If McCarthy ultimately fails to unite Republicans, they will have to look an alternative. Among the possibilities are the No. 2 House Republican, Steve Scalise, and Rep. Jim Jordan, both of whom have endorsed McCarthy. Jordan received 20 votes when he was nominated by voters on Tuesday.

Reporting by Moira Warburton, Doina Chiaku, David Morgan, Kanishka Singh and Gram Slattery; Written by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Will Dunham, Howard Goller and Christian Schmollinger

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Gram Slattery

Thomson Reuters

Washington-based correspondent covering campaigns and Congress. He has previously been published in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Santiago, Chile, and has reported widely in Latin America. Co-winner of the 2021 Reuters Journalist of the Year Award in the business coverage category for a series on corruption and fraud in the oil industry. He was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard College.

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