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The US House of Representatives crisis worsened, and McCarthy failed to win the ninth round of votes

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Republican candidate Kevin McCarthy failed in his ninth attempt to win the presidency of the US House of Representatives in a three-day standoff that led to a political crisis. The House moved to the 10th round, the most since 1859.

McCarthy, a favorite of the Republican establishment but troubled by the far right, made sweeping concessions overnight to quell an insurrection of about 20 hardliners in his camp, derailing his bid to become the nation’s top lawmaker.

But his overtures seemed to fall on deaf ears as he failed to beat a single challenger in the opening vote on Thursday, the eighth since the House opened to a new term under a slim Republican majority.

The 57-year-old Californian was already humiliated by the failure to secure the gavel across six voting rounds in a chaotic and rollercoaster 48 hours, trailing each time to his Democratic counterpart — Hakeem Jeffries — though neither could win the required majority.

“I hope the Republicans in the House of Representatives today will stop the bickering and backbiting and backstabbing so we can support the American people,” Jeffries told reporters at the US Capitol.

McCarthy crossed one of his red lines overnight by agreeing to lower the threshold needed to force a vote that expels a speaker from a majority of either party to just one, jeopardizing his chances of long-term survival.

He has also reportedly indicated that he is willing to give the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus two or three seats on the powerful Rules Committee, the speaker’s mechanism for controlling how voting is conducted in the room.

His opponents also claim they extracted a pledge to limit lawmakers to three terms, and for a McCarthy-linked political organization to stop fielding moderates against far-right candidates in safe Republican seats.

US security ‘at risk’

The 2023 Speakers Race is the first in a century to require multiple rounds of voting. No business can take place in the House of Representatives without its speaker, which means elected lawmakers must keep voting until someone wins a majority.

Until then, the chamber will not be able to swear in, form committees, process legislation, or open any of the investigations Republicans have promised into President Joe Biden.

Three Republican lawmakers slated to chair national security committees also warned in an open letter Thursday that the House is currently unable to oversee the Pentagon or the intelligence community.

“We cannot let personal politics jeopardize the safety and security of the United States,” they said.

McCarthy had always dreamed of being Speaker of the House, but Tuesday and Wednesday were some of the most humiliating days in his career, as he failed to win a majority of votes after the vote, despite the Republicans’ control of the House.

In the only significant change in the vote, Donald Trump, who seeks a return to the White House and has no ambition to talk about it, got a first nod from Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz.

McCarthy’s failure is seen as another sign of Trump’s weakening control of the party, where the lawmaker’s vote share has already fallen after the former president endorsed him on Wednesday.

The conservative Chip Roy in Texas has indicated that the compromises proposed by McCarthy could reduce the so-called “Taliban 20” who oppose his speaker’s presentation to about 10 detractors.

‘digging in’

But in the end, 21 of his 221 fellow Republicans opposed him — the same number in all three votes on Wednesday — and he could only afford to lose four.

In many cases, McCarthy’s critics lack specific objections to his policies, but instead claim that they find him untrustworthy, lacking in political philosophy, and motivated only by a lust for power.

The House could move directly to the eighth speaker vote, though the McCarthyists could try to ask for a delay to continue the talks.

Senior Republican allies still hope that reducing individual figure opposition in upcoming voting rounds will increase pressure on remaining retirees to follow suit. But others fear that the risky strategy of giving up shop to the party’s more extreme fringes will eventually lead to a backlash among moderates.

McCarthy’s friend, Texas Pete Sessions, told CNN on Wednesday that his team can only afford three or four inconclusive votes before they need to start looking for a less divisive candidate. “I tell you, these nineteen people have been dug in,” he said of the “Never Kevins” rebel group.

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