Divided Republicans in the United States finally elect McCarthy as Speaker of the House
The US House of Representatives finally has a speaker, with Republican Kevin McCarthy elected in the historic 15th ballot after midnight early Saturday morning, ending a paralyzing standoff with right-wing bastions that have raised concerns about his party’s ability to wield power in Congress.
McCarthy’s victory required a historic 15 rounds of voting. It was only secured after a late-night session of high drama that saw Republican members on the verge of blows as tempers flared.
It also required major concessions for a small group of conservative Republicans who opposed his candidacy and turned a show of party unity into a display of days of internal division.
The speaker exercises vital influence in Washington by presiding over the business of the House of Representatives and is second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
But McCarthy was weakened by the drawn-out elections and the promises he was forced to make to the hardliners, who have demonstrated the influence they wield under the Republicans’ slim majority in the House of Representatives.
The chaos and confusion, which Democratic challengers watch with glee and contempt across the aisle, could point to years of legislative and decision-making paralysis on issues important to the country — and the world at large.
When he kissed the gavel in the wee hours of Saturday, McCarthy, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, outlined Republicans’ aggressive lines of attack ahead of the 2024 presidential race.
He pledged to “pass bills to fix the nation’s challenges, from the wide-open Southern border to ‘last America’ energy policies, to awaken indoctrination in our schools.”
“America’s long-term challenges — debt and the rise of the Chinese Communist Party — Congress must be with one voice on both of these issues,” the 57-year-old Californian told the House of Representatives.
As the 14th vote began before midnight Friday, McCarthy suffered a shocking setback amid heated exchanges as he secured the majority by just one vote out of more than 400 candidates.
When Matt Gaetz voted “present” to dismiss McCarthy, the frustrated Republican leader headed to the MK-elect in Florida for face-to-face talks in the House.
In scenes shown on live television, Gates pointed the finger at McCarthy, who backed away before Alabama’s Mike Rogers lunged at Gates and had to grab him with a handcuffed arm across the face.
“The ‘Speaker of the House’ selection process, as insane as it sounds, has made everything so much bigger and more important than if it had been done the traditional way,” Trump said on his Truth Social platform.
“Congratulations to Kevin McCarthy and our great Republican Party!” And the former president added, who launched his 2024 election campaign to return to the White House.
Democratic President Joe Biden has optimistically called for more bipartisanship.
“I am ready to work with the Republicans when I can, and voters have made it clear that they expect the Republicans to be willing to work with me,” Biden said after McCarthy’s victory.
There were more rounds of voting in the violent 2023 contest than in any presidential election since the Civil War.
Concessions to the far right?
McCarthy had projected his confidence all week, even as he bleed votes rather than add to the base of about 200 Republicans who have backed him the entire time.
His party’s takeover of Congress is also expected to lead to investigations into most aspects of the Biden administration and his family.
Democrats and some McCarthy supporters, privately, worry that he has offered his far-right critics radical political commitments that make the House ungovernable.
There have been reports that he has agreed to a proposal to keep spending at 2022 levels, including a cap on military financing, which would have the same effect as a $75 billion cut.
That has raised concern among defense hawks who are pressing the United States to project strength amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s hardening stance toward Taiwan.
Other lawmakers complained that McCarthy was giving hardliners positions on the Plum Committee and rule changes that would severely reduce the speaker’s role.
Rebel Republicans are understood to have inverted their votes in exchange for rule changes that would make it possible to remove a speaker in a vote by just one member.
Democrats said that the speaker’s role would be a poisoned chalice, because McCarthy’s concessions would make him the weakest speaker in modern history.