House GOP paralyzed on Day 1 as right wing blocks McCarthy’s presidencyThank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
WASHINGTON — Republicans were deadlocked Tuesday over who will lead their new majority after Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California lost three votes for the top job as hard-right lawmakers in open rebellion dealt their party leader a humiliating blow and sparked historic struggle for Floor of the house.
The riot, led by ultraconservative lawmakers who have for weeks kept their promise to oppose Mr. McCarthy, paralyzed the House of Representatives on the first day of the Republican administration, delaying the swearing-in of hundreds of members of Congress, delaying any legislative work and unveiling deep divisions that threaten to make the party’s House majority unmanageable.
After three deadlocked votes, the House adjourned without a leader late Tuesday afternoon, agreeing to reconvene at noon Wednesday to start the process over.
That didn’t end the California Republican’s bid for the presidency. He has vowed not to back down until he secures the post, forcing multiple votes if necessary until he wins and raising the prospect of a grueling run of votes that could last for days.
“I’m staying until we win,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters between the second and third votes. “I know the way.”
House precedent dictates that members continue to vote until someone secures the majority needed to win. But by Tuesday, the House had failed to elect a speaker in the first roll-call vote since 1923, when the election lasted nine ballots.
It was not clear how long it might take for Republicans to break the deadlock this time, or what Mr. McCarthy’s strategy was, if any, to bounce back from an embarrassing string of defeats. No viable challenger has yet emerged — Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, a leader of the insurgency, garnered just 10 votes on the first ballot — but if Mr. McCarthy continues to flounder, Republicans could shift their votes to an alternative, such as his no. 2, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
On Tuesday, right-wing Republicans rallied behind Rep. Jim Jordan, a founding member of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, as an alternative to Mr. McCarthy, who they derided as purposefully obsessed with winning office and willing to do whatever it takes to this.
“Maybe the right person is someone who didn’t sell any stock of themselves to get it,” Representative Matt Goetz of Florida said as he rose to nominate Mr. Jordan instead, as Mr. McCarthy sat nearby and was smiling.
Mr. Jordan, a former rival who has since allied himself with Mr. McCarthy, pleaded with his colleagues to rally behind the California Republican.
A new congress begins
The 118th Congress opened on January 3, with Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives and Democrats holding the Senate.
“We need to rally around it and come together,” Mr Jordan said.
But on Tuesday, Republicans refused to do so. The failed votes showed publicly the extent of the opposition Mr McCarthy faces in his quest to seize the speaker’s gavel. With all members of the House present and voting, Mr. McCarthy needs 218 votes to become speaker, leaving little room for Republicans as the party controls only 222 seats. He failed again and again, fetching just 203 on the first two ballots.
By the third vote, only one lawmaker had changed his position, Representative Byron Donalds of Florida, a member of the Freedom Caucus, who switched his support to Mr. Jordan, leaving Mr. McCarthy with 202. Mr. Donalds later told reporters that he was open to voting for Mr. McCarthy again, underscoring the cumbersome nature of the process.
“Our conference needs to adjourn and huddle and find someone or work out next steps, but these continuous votes are not working for anyone,” Mr. Donalds said in a statement.
A quintet of Mr. McCarthy’s detractors, including Mr. Biggs, the former chairman of the Freedom Caucus, and Mr. Goetz telegraphed loudly for weeks that they would oppose him for speaker.
But many others, like Congressman Michael Cloud of Texas and Josh Brechin of Oklahoma, a freshman, have remained silent and kept their opposition under the radar. As they announced their positions during the first vote, the number of defectors piled up, fast approaching what Mr. McCarthy’s team personally hoped would be the worst-case scenario.
The result was that what should have been a day of jubilation for Republicans turned instead into a chaotic display of disunity within the party. That all but ensured that even if Mr McCarthy were to pull out a victory – an outcome that seemed remote given the impasse – he would be a weak orator loyal to an empowered right wing.
With Democrats holding together behind their leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York won more votes than Mr. McCarthy for speaker in every vote — symbolic victories because Mr. Jeffries lacked the support to claim the top job , but a troubling indicator for the California Republican, who has been campaigning for office for years.
Several Democrats who were expected to lose tough races to Mr. McCarthy loyalists in the red-wave midterm elections voted for Mr. Jeffries expected to sweep Republicans into power with a comfortable margin of control. But the wave never materialized, and in one key election after another, Democrats swept to victory, giving Mr. McCarthy the razor-thin majority that now plagues him.
During the first vote on Tuesday, Mr. McCarthy sat calmly on the House floor as an aide by his side, as well as two of his top deputies, quietly tallied the growing pile of votes against him. While he was seen occasionally bending down from the floor, he largely remained in place and did not appear to haggle with the group of rebels between voices, although some of his allies could be seen huddling with members of the team to Mr. McCarthy, planning the next steps.
Centrist Republicans were not as calm as Mr. McCarthy, and they showed flashes of fury after watching their hard-right colleagues repeatedly hammer their leader.
“I think they should be ashamed,” Rep.-elect Mike Lawler of New York said of the rebels. “I think they seem ill-equipped to govern. And they raised doubts among the American people.
When it was his turn to vote on the third ballot, an irritated Congressman Bill Huizenga, Republican of Michigan, stood up and said, “Because I’m interested in governing — Kevin McCarthy.”
Outside the chamber in the speaker’s lobby after the second vote, several Texas Republicans, including Representatives Daniel Crenshaw and Michael McCaul, huddled in an apparent attempt to persuade Mr. Cloud to change his vote.
But even as Mr. Scalise insisted that lawmakers would continue to vote “until we get this done,” the group of defectors showed no sign of backing down.
“We’re not going to back down until we get in a room and decide how we’re going to be able to stand up and fight for the American people, no matter who the speaker is,” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, one of the leaders of the opposition to Mr. McCarthy said on Fox News. “I don’t blink.”
The day began inauspiciously for Mr. McCarthy, who gathered Republicans in a private morning meeting in the Capitol basement to make a final plea for support before the vote. He claimed that the lawmakers opposing him were selfishly disrupting the day of unity that was supposed to be for their own personal gain.
“I won this job,” Mr McCarthy told the group.
“Nonsense!” came the response from Rep. Lauren Bobert of Colorado, one of the far-right Republicans who oppose him, according to two people who heard the exchange and described it on condition of anonymity. (She later told a reporter she didn’t shout anything during the meeting, but wouldn’t say if she spoke.)
The closing arguments appeared to further anger Mr. McCarthy’s critics, including Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus, who left the session fuming.
“This meeting was not about trying to inform people of what it takes to get to 218 and ask for what you want,” he told reporters. “It was about breaking up and feigning unity in the room that doesn’t really exist.”
Mr. McCarthy’s allies were just as furious. One incoming committee chairman, Representative Mike D. Rogers of Alabama, who is expected to lead the Armed Services Committee, said during the meeting that those who opposed Mr. McCarthy should lose their assignments on the committee, according to the people in the room.
Mr. McCarthy’s defeats came after a torturous week-long lobbying campaign he undertook in an attempt to muster the necessary votes for the election, in which he sought to appease his right wing by adopting their tactics and agenda. He took a firm stand against legislation to fund the government and prevent a shutdown and called on Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas to resign or facing potential impeachment proceedings.
Over the weekend, in a last-ditch effort to win over critics, he exposed his most significant offerings to dateunveiling a set of rules governing how the House operates, including the so-called Holman Rule, which allows lawmakers to use spending bills to deny funding to specific programs and fire federal employees or cut their pay.
His biggest concession was agreeing to a rule that would allow five lawmakers to call an early vote at any time to oust the speaker. That was a key demand of conservatives, who had previously used the procedure to oust Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio.
But that was not enough to satisfy the right wing of his party, which wanted every single MP to be able to force such a vote. After Mr. McCarthy announced the concessions, nine more Republicans — most of whom had previously expressed skepticism about Mr. McCarthy’s bid for the presidency — emerged to criticize his efforts to win them as insufficient.
Luke Broadwater, Emily Cochrane and Stephanie Lai contributed reporting.
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