McCarthy fails again as tensions rise in the House

0
34

WASHINGTON — Republican Kevin McCarthy fell short of winning the Speakership of the House on the 14th ballot Friday night by one vote as tensions flared in a chaotic scene on the House floor.

As the clock neared midnight, lawmakers plunged into the 15th round of voting.

In a tumultuous 14th, even after two key Republicans were absent to lower the number McCarthy needed, it wasn’t enough. He moved to the back of the room to confront Matt Goetz, who was sitting with Lauren Bobert and other incredulous people. Fingers were pointed, words were exchanged, and apparently violence was simply averted.

At one point, Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama began lunging at Gatez before Richard Hudson physically pulled him back.

“Stay civil!” someone shouted.

Still, McCarthy was on the verge of becoming speaker of the House of Representatives when the chamber met for a historic fourth day after his sweeping gains in a grueling contest that tested American democracy and the Republican Party’s ability to govern.

Before the vote, McCarthy flipped 15 conservative candidates to become supporters, including the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, leaving just a few shy of picking up the gavel for the new Congress.

The House responded late at night, giving time for last-minute negotiations and time for absent Republican colleagues to return to Washington if their votes are needed. But the hall was tense and it didn’t matter, because the roll call failed.

A recess vote then took place, but Republicans led by McCarthy began switching their votes to stay in session, and the 15th round of voting began as the clock ticked toward midnight.

Earlier in the day, McCarthy told reporters he believed “we will have enough votes to end this once and for all.”

The day’s stunning turnaround came after McCarthy agreed to many of the detractors’ demands — including restoring a long-standing House rule that allowed any individual member to vote to remove him from office.

Even if McCarthy can get the votes he needs, he will find himself a weakened speaker, having ceded some power and is constantly in danger of being outvoted by his detractors.

But he could also take heart from having survived one of the fiercest fights for the gavel in US history. Not since the Civil War has the vote for speaker gone through so many rounds of voting.

The showdown, which has brought the new Congress to a standstill, comes amid the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol that shocked the nation as a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump tried to block Congress from certifying the Republican’s defeat of Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

At an event at the Capitol on Friday, some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, observed a moment of silence and praised the officers who helped secure Congress that day. And at the White House, Biden presented medals to officers and other individuals who fought the attackers.

“America is a country of law, not chaos,” he said.

During the speaker’s vote in the afternoon, a number of Republicans, tired of the spectacle, temporarily walked away as one of McCarthy’s most ardent opponents lashed out at the GOP leader.

The outlines of a deal with conservatives that blocked McCarthy’s rise emerged after three dark days and 11 failed votes in an intra-party standoff unprecedented in modern times.

And an optimistic McCarthy told reporters when he arrived at the Capitol: “We’re going to make progress. We will shock you.”

One former high-profile supporter, Republican Scott Perry, chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, who spearheaded Trump’s 2020 challenge, tweeted after he voted for McCarthy: “We are at a tipping point.”

Another GOP stalwart, Byron Donalds of Florida, who has repeatedly floated as an alternative candidate for speaker, also switched Friday, voting for McCarthy.

Trump may have played a role in swaying the dodgers. Donalds said he spoke with the former president, who the day before called on Republicans to end the public spat.

On the 12th ballot, McCarthy had the most votes for the first time, with 213. A 13th was quickly launched, this time just between McCarthy and the Democratic leader, and he took another detractor to 214.

With 432 members voting — including a dramatic comeback by Democrat David Throne, who underwent surgery — McCarthy still fell short of a majority. Six Republicans cast their ballots for a fellow Republican. McCarthy’s allies were counting on the return of two absent colleagues to push him even closer to a majority in the overnight vote.

When Rep. Mike Garcia nominated McCarthy on Friday, he also thanked the US Capitol Police, who were applauded for standing up to protect lawmakers and a democratic legislature on Jan. 6.

But in singling out Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat Jim Clyburn recalled the horror of that day and told his colleagues, “The eyes of the country are on us today,” he said.

Without a speaker, the House cannot swear members in and begin the 2023-24 session, signaling the difficulties the new Republican majority faces as it tries to govern.

Electing the Speaker is usually an easy and joyous task for the party that has just gained majority control. But not this time: About 200 Republicans were stumped by 20 far-right colleagues who said he wasn’t conservative enough.

The disorganized start to the new Congress has pointed to future difficulties with Republicans who now control the House, much as some past Republican speakers, including John Boehner, have struggled to lead the rebellious right wing. The result: a government shutdown, a standoff and Boehner’s early retirement as conservatives threatened to oust him.

The agreement, presented by McCarthy to the Freedom Caucus and others, focuses on rule changes they have been pushing for months. These changes would reduce the powers of the Speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence over the development and passage of legislation.

At the heart of the new deal is restoring House rules that would allow a single lawmaker to file a “vacation of the chair” motion, essentially triggering a vote to impeach the speaker. McCarthy resisted returning to the long-standing rule, which was overturned by former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, because it ignored past Speaker Boehner, a Republican. But it seems McCarthy had no other choice.

Other abstentionist victories are more obscure and include provisions in the proposed deal to expand the number of seats on the House Rules Committee, to allow 72 hours to publish bills before a vote, and to promise to pass a constitutional amendment that would introduce federal limits on the number of terms a person can serve in the House and Senate.

What began as a political novelty, the first time since 1923 that a candidate failed to win the gavel on the first ballot, has turned into a bitter feud between the Republican Party and a deepening potential crisis.

Prior to Friday’s vote, Democratic leader Jeffries of New York had the most votes on every ballot, but also lacked a majority. McCarthy ran second without going away.

The pressure on McCarthy is growing every day to somehow find the votes he needs or step aside. Congress cannot fully function, the new Republican chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Forces and Intelligence Committees have said that national security is at risk, and employees are at risk of not receiving their salaries.

The longest battle for the gavel began in late 1855 and lasted two months, during the slavery debate on the eve of the Civil War, there were 133 votes.

___

AP writers Mary Claire Jalonik and Kevin Freking and video reporters Nathan Elgren and Mike Pezzali contributed to this report.

McCarthy fails again as tensions rise in the House

Source link McCarthy fails again as tensions rise in the House