regular-article-logo Thursday, 21 September 2023

US House without a speaker after Kevin McCarthy loses sixth round

Numerous defections have meant that Kevin McCarthy has once again failed in his bid to become US House speaker

Deutsche Welle Published 05.01.23, 10:20 AM
McCarthy can only afford four dissenting votes from his own party to secure the speakership.

McCarthy can only afford four dissenting votes from his own party to secure the speakership. Deutsche Welle

For a fourth, fifth and sixth time, Republicans tried to vote Kevin McCarthy into the role of House Speaker on Wednesday, falling short on each occasion.

McCarthy lost each round after a sufficient number of Republicans voted for the surprise nomination Byron Donalds, also a Republican, on day two of the House's attempt to elect a speaker.


In addition to the 20 who broke ranks and voted against McCarthy, Republican Victoria Spartz of Indiana voted "present," in the fourth, fifth and sixth vote, signifying further defections could be in progress.

Some Congressional analysts have suggested McCarthy's only path to the speaker role would be if enough Republicans who defected altered their course to vote merely "present," nullifying efforts to impede his path to the gavel.

In both the last three rounds, the numbers remained static with McCarthy securing 201 votes, 20 Republicans voting for Donalds, and Spartz voting "present."

Before a sixth round kicked off, Republican Kat Cammack of Florida nominated McCarthy, describing the deadlock as "groundhog day."

What happens next?

The house reconvened at 8 p.m. local Washington time (1 a.m. GMT on Thursday) in an effort to dissolve the impasse, but adjourned for a second day with resolving the matter. The House will reconvene on Thursday at noon. Voting will resume until a candidate reaches the magic number of 218 votes.

"I don't think voting tonight is productive," McCarthy said on Wednesday, exiting a lengthy closed-door meeting with key holdouts. "I think people need to work a little more. I don't think a vote tonight would make any difference. But a vote in the future could.'

McCarthy can only afford four dissenting votes from his own party to secure the speakership.

On Tuesday, the dissenters in his own party rallied around Andy Biggs of Arizona and Jim Jordan of Ohio in the first round before coalescing around Jordan in the final two rounds.

Some Democrats have expressed to the media their readiness to vote for what they described as a moderate Republican who would be ready to reach a middle ground regarding issues such as government funding and debt ceiling.

What happened prior to the vote Wednesday?

The Republican party — which took control of the lower chamber in November — had previously failed to reach a consensus behind McCarthy following three votes Tuesday.

The chaos meant that McCarthy even trailed in votes behind the candidate the Democrats have put forward for House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

McCarthy, however, was undeterred, vowing to finish the fight and secure the speakership.

Early Wednesday, US President Joe Biden weighed in at the White House before jetting off to Kentucky to tote the bipartisan infrastructure plan that he signed off on late last year with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican.

Biden said the mess in the House was "embarrassing" and "not a good look," while noting that "the rest of the world is looking."

What is the fallout from Tuesday's failed rounds of voting?

Following three rounds of voting in which McCarthy failed to secure the top job in the House, McCarthy told reporters late Tuesday following closed door meetings: "Today, is that the day I wanted to have? No."

McCarthy added that dropping out of the race for the gavel was "not going to happen."

For the first time since 1923, a nominee for the House speaker was unable to secure the gavel in the first vote.

The longest vote in US history to secure the speaker's gavel occurred before the US Civil War in 1855, which dragged out for two months, with 133 ballots.

Early Wednesday, former US President Donald Trump urged members of his party to rally behind McCarthy to end the chaos that unfolded Tuesday.

Trump weighed in on Truth Social, which provides him with a direct line to his base, to urge those reticent to vote for McCarthy in his party to do so, writing: "Close the deal, take the victory."

Trump added: "Republicans, do not turn a great triumph into a giant & embarrassing defeat."

Why does Tuesday's failed vote matter?

The chaos in the voting Tuesday is indicative of a larger problem confronting the Republican Party.

For example, the cover of Wednesday's New York Post, part of the newspaper empire of Rupert Murdoch and a staunch supporter of conservative causes, featured two of the Republican defectors who voted against McCarthy, Republicans Matt Gaetz of Florida and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, with the words "Grow up!"

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