Republican Kevin McCarthy suffered a historic defeat in the election of the US House of Representatives. McCarthy missed the required majority for the powerful office in the USA in the vote in the constituent session of the parliamentary chamber on Tuesday in several ballots.
It is the first time in a hundred years that the election has required more than one attempt and that a parliamentary group has not elected its candidate to office in the first round. The US House of Representatives adjourned the vote on the presidency of the chamber.
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 the elections 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.
At first it was unclear how many more votes would be needed to elect a new chair for the parliamentary chamber. It was also unclear whether the election would last several days. Each ballot is lengthy because all MPs are called up individually to nominate their preferred candidate.
House of Representatives paralyzed
The election of the chairman is the first major act of a newly elected House of Representatives. And until the presidency is clarified, nothing works: the Chamber of Congress cannot start its work, not even the new MPs can be sworn in.
In the first and second round, McCarthy only got 203 out of 434 votes cast - he would have needed 218. 19 party colleagues refused to vote for him in both attempts. It had previously been expected that a good dozen party colleagues would not support him. In the third ballot, he lost another vote from his own ranks.
After the first ballot, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan McCarthy nominated for the second attempt and persuaded his party colleagues to close 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.
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.
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.
Ideological tug of war
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.