Embarrassing display in the US House of Representatives: dead candidate is not elected as president

Republican McCarthy was the clear winner after his party took control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats in November’s midterm elections, albeit with a very narrow minority of 222 seats out of a total of 435. McCarthy had needed an absolute majority of 218 votes in the House – and could therefore barely afford 4 ‘no’ voters in its own ranks.

McCarthy has therefore been making promises to the far-right wing of his party in recent weeks and months. Despite this, 14 Republicans already spoke out against the man’s candidacy before the start of the session. Five members – the ‘Never Kevins’ – had even sworn never to vote for McCarthy. He is a representative of the mainstream and the establishment, a pawn, little more than a mouthpiece for lobbyists.

own candidate

The relatively moderate McCarthy soon had competition within its own ranks: the extreme right wing of the party, more extreme than ever after four years of Donald Trump, pushed Andy Biggs forward. He snatched 10 votes from McCarthy in the first round, while 9 Republicans voted for other candidates. “The power is with us, the people,” his supporters said. “Washington is broken, the members of this House are just the last to realize it.”

It was speculated in advance that McCarthy would step aside in that case, but after the vote he announced that he would not do so. He also said that he had “already made a lot of concessions” to his party’s right wing, but “has now finished negotiating”.

The situation is therefore completely blocked. Also in the second round, 19 Republicans again did not vote for McCarthy. This time they all rallied behind Jim Jordan – himself a supporter of McCarthy, though much more right-wing in his own views and thus more acceptable to the far-right Republicans.

Second round

The House therefore had to vote on a new chairman in more than one round for the first time in 100 years on Tuesday. There is no real scenario for what can happen: in 1923 nine consecutive votes were cast until a candidate received the necessary number of votes. In 1869, as many as 60 ballots were needed.

In principle, the House can also suspend proceedings, but that also requires 218 votes, and it is unlikely that the Democrats will help the Republicans to that majority. As long as there is no president, the new members cannot take the oath, and the House cannot vote laws.

Important function

The role of speaker is one of the most important political functions in American politics. He or she sets the legislative agenda and schedule of the House, and serves on key committees.

McCarthy’s failure to secure the position is considered an embarrassment, and is deeply damaging to his and his party’s credibility. For example, it could hinder Republican plans to impede President Joe Biden’s administration, or to launch an investigation into alleged crimes committed by Hunter Biden (the president’s son).

Successor to Pelosi

The Democrats nominated Hakeem Jeffries for chairman on Tuesday. Given the Republican majority in the House, he normally cannot become president, but will succeed Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democratic minority in the House. He thus becomes the first African-American to lead a party in the United States Congress.

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