The US House of Representatives has finally elected Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the Hosue after 15 rounds of voting. In 1856, it took 133 rounds of voting before the members of the House had confirmed a speaker. This has only occurred twice since 1856. If this is anything like the civil war era of 1856 then Congress will be out of service for two months.
Republican candidate Kevin McCarthy was set to be the next majority speaker of the House of Congress. What was meant to be a fairly ceremonious vote has turned out to be a political disaster for the Republican party, which gained a small majority in the midterm elections in November 2022. McCarthy who was the minority leader remained sufficiently unchallenged for this role. Congressman McCarthy particularly gained attention when, during the January 6th riots, spoke out against Trump before subsequently changing his position to back Trump. He, therefore, made multiple enemies on the moderate and extreme right of the Republican party. Nevertheless, he seemed like a fairly keen candidate (Republican speaker of the House) for a role that no one envied, which made him an acceptable candidate for the moderates.
However, the process of selecting the House speaker had not gone smoothly, to say the least. McCarthy has been painstakingly trying to win over the 21 conservatives who have failed to back him. These rebels have continued to (mostly) vote for various other candidates. The rebels holding out their votes are seen as the far right of the party. Mostly all of these candidates come from safe seats which allows them to make these extreme political decisions.
Despite many of them being Trump supporters, the ex-president’s endorsement of McCarthy has had virtually no impact on how the rebels were voting. Lauren Boebert, a Republican rebel, claims that even though Trump is her “favourite US President,” she thought it was time for Trump to encourage McCarthy to step down.
In an unusual turn of events, after the thirteenth round of voting, the Democrats had more votes backing their candidate, Hakeem Jeffries, minority house leader than McCarthy. Jeffries currently remains ahead of McCarthy. Coming in at third place is Byron Donalds, with one Republican representative, Matt Gaetz, spoiling his vote by nominating Donald Trump on the 7th ballot.
Out of desperation, McCarthy has made big concessions to the holdouts. One major concession was that 5 Republicans can call for a vote for the speaker instead of the usual half of the GOP (Grand Old Party) and, another allowed them to pick the committee party chairs. Both of these concessions have put McCarthy in an extremely vulnerable position by showing his weakness and additionally, letting hardliners hold the power in these decisions.
On the 6th of January 2023, McCarthy claimed he has now got enough votes to hold the majority speakership. Regardless of the outcome, the speakership will be in fragile hands.
The chaos occurring in the US Congress is a clear indicator that the Republican Party is in grave danger. The GOP is so deeply divided that even a simple vote of pageantry has led to political disarray. Voters in the US will be looking at this moment and questioning, how the Republicans can ever pull themselves together for the presidential race in 2024.