New record in the power struggle in the US Congress: Since the 19th century, the members of the House of Representatives have not needed so many attempts to elect a new chairman. Republican Kevin McCarthy did not get the necessary majority in the ninth ballot on Thursday to secure the top job in the House of Representatives. This means that at least one more attempt is necessary. There have not been so many elections since 1859/1860. Republican William Pennington was only elected chairman in the 44th ballot. The procedure took several weeks.
The current power struggle already had a historical dimension. It is the first time in a hundred years that it takes several attempts to fill the top position. In 1923, nine ballots were needed to elect a chairman. Even then, the whole thing lasted several days. It took the longest in 1855/56 - at that time the parliamentary chamber needed two months for the election and 133 ballots.
Despite further concessions, McCarthy was unable to unite his opponents in the party behind him on Thursday. He failed to win any more Republicans over to his side - 20 MPs voted for other candidates, and one MP abstained. With Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, McCarthy needs almost every vote in his party to become leader.
New level of desperation
He is now showing a new level of "despair," judged the broadcaster CNN. McCarthy failed six ballots on Tuesday and Wednesday and was embarrassed. The humiliation continued on Thursday. One of his opponents even voted for ex-President Trump during the oral vote. When voting, MPs can also vote for people who are not members of the US Congress. Trump is given no realistic chance of being elected speaker of the House of Representatives.
With Republicans holding a slim majority in the House of Commons, McCarthy needs his party's support. If McCarthy cannot come to terms with opponents in his party, he may attempt to negotiate with the Democrats. They could help him win the elections by abstaining in their ranks, for example, because that would reduce the number of votes needed. It would also be possible for a new candidate to be put forward that the Republicans could agree on. Talks with the Democrats about a consensus candidate that they would support would also be conceivable.
Happy for the Democrats
The fact that the Democrats currently seem to be very happy to see McCarthy fail was shown on Wednesday evening (local time). After a break, MPs met again. McCarthy had previously said that another vote that evening would not be successful - so one of his confidants asked for the meeting to be adjourned. However, the Democrats opposed the project. Only at the last moment was the motion passed by a razor-thin Republican majority.
Even an appeal by ex-President Trump hadn't changed the situation. He had previously supported McCarthy - but gave him backing after the voting debacle. But the ardent Trump fans continued to block McCarthy. For McCarthy, the series of defeats is a historic defeat and a public embarrassment. 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 power struggle also shows the inner turmoil of Republicans. They had regained a majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm elections in November and actually wanted to drive President Joe Biden in front of them. Now many are wondering whether the dysfunctional party is even capable of handling the important tasks in the parliamentary chamber.
McCarthy makes big concessions
McCarthy reportedly took a big step towards his party opponents ahead of the vote to secure their votes and break the deadlock. The 57-year-old is said to have even agreed to further lower the hurdles for removing a chairman from the House of Representatives. He offers his opponents a means of pressure to chase him out of office at will. This could have serious ramifications and create even more instability when important decisions are about to be made in Congress. The right-wing MPs could hold the Chamber hostage. McCarthy had already come a long way to accommodate the renegades on this point - but without success.