In the relentless power struggle of the Republicans for the presidency of the US House of Representatives, a defeat for Republican Kevin McCarthy is also becoming apparent in the third ballot. Again, several party colleagues refused to support him and instead voted for Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. After the 57-year-old McCarthy suffered a historic defeat in the first vote on Tuesday and also missed a majority in the second round, a third ballot started immediately afterwards in the constituent session of the Parliamentary Chamber.
In the first ballot, 19 party colleagues rebelled against McCarthy and voted for other candidates. At the second attempt, 19 Republicans voted unanimously for Jordan. He had previously nominated McCarthy for the second ballot and persuaded his party colleagues to close the ranks. But then immediately afterwards one of McCarthy's toughest opponents, MP Matt Gaetz, struck out - and nominated Jordan of all people. Jordan is a stalwart of ex-President Donald Trump and eventually rallied all 19 dissenters behind him in the second round.
House of Representatives paralyzed
It was initially unclear how many more votes would be needed to elect a new chairman for the parliamentary chamber. It was also unclear whether the election could last several days. Each ballot is lengthy because all MPs are called up individually to nominate their preferred candidate. And until the presidency is clarified, nothing happens in the House of Representatives: Not even the new MPs can be sworn in.
It is the first time in a hundred years that an election to the powerful office has required more than one attempt and a faction has refused allegiance to its candidate in the first round.
After the parliamentary elections in November, the Congress met for the first time on Tuesday in a new constellation. The Republicans took control of the House of Representatives - in the Senate, President Joe Biden's Democrats still have a narrow majority. The Republicans' bitter internal struggle for leadership in the House of Representatives has been raging for weeks. But now things turned out worse than expected for McCarthy.
The post of chairman of the chamber, which has been held by Democrat Nancy Pelosi in recent years, ranks third in the national ranking after the president and his vice president. Usually the choice is a formality. But several party colleagues rebelled against McCarthy and had already made it clear before the election that they did not want to vote for McCarthy. He made a number of concessions to his opponents, because in view of the slim majority of Republicans in the chamber, he is dependent on almost every vote.
For McCarthy, his defeat in both ballots is a public exposure that also shows the inner turmoil of the party. It has been a hundred years since a candidate for the House of Representatives vote did not win the necessary majority on the first ballot: in 1923 it took nine ballots to select a leader. At that time it took several days.
McCarthy had been combative just before the session and said: "I hold the record for the longest speech in plenary." He has no problem setting a record for the most ballots in a vote for the presidency of the House of Representatives.
Not good conditions
Even if McCarthy prevails in the end, he will emerge weakened from the tussle and will face some difficulties organizing majorities in the Congress Chamber for years to come.
McCarthy revealed on Tuesday, visibly annoyed, that he was told on Monday that he would only get the necessary votes if he gave certain positions and budgets to certain members of the group. His opponent Gaetz even said bluntly that he didn't care if, in case of doubt, the Democratic candidate won the election. According to McCarthy, his opponents are only concerned with personal advancement, not with the country. There might be a "battle" in the chamber's plenary session, but it's about the whole faction and the country, "and that's okay with me."
The Republican faction in the House of Representatives, like the party as a whole, is torn between right-wing supporters of Trump and more moderate party members. Faced with a slim majority, McCarthy must unite the various wings behind him and even recruit members from the very fringes of his faction to become leader. The Democrats have no chance of appointing the chairman on their own because they are the smaller faction in the chamber.