Written by Lisa Mascaro and Farnoush Amiri
WASHINGTON (AP) – For a long and frustrating third day, divided Republicans kept the Speaker’s chair in the US House of Representatives empty Thursday as party leader Kevin McCarthy failed repeatedly in a bruising series of votes to win enough GOP votes to grab seats. the room. hammer.
After a long period of darkness, glimmers of a deal emerged with far-right bastions. But the day’s tally was dismal: McCarthy lost the seventh, eighth, and then the historic ninth, tenth, and eleventh rounds of voting, surpassing his number 100 years ago in the last long battle to choose the speaker. By nightfall, despite loud protests from Democrats, Republicans voted to adjourn and return on Friday to try again.
The California Republican grasped the moment without apparent unease: “Apparently, I like to make history.”
An agreement with opponents from the conservative Freedom Bloc is beginning to take shape, including several fundamental changes to the rules they have been seeking for months. These changes would reduce the power of the speaker’s office and give rank-and-file legislators more influence in crafting legislation.
The crux of the matter is reinstating a House law that would allow a single legislator to introduce a motion to “vacate the chair,” essentially calling for a vote to impeach the Speaker — a move McCarthy resisted because it was over former Republican chairman John Boehner’s boss, chasing him into early retirement. .
Even if McCarthy is able to secure the votes he needs, he will emerge as a weak speaker, having relinquished some powers and being constantly threatened with a vote by his critics. But he’s also likely to take heart as a survivor of one of the most brutal sledgehammer battles in US history.
Other handicap gains include provisions in the proposed deal to expand the number of seats available on the House Rules Committee, a 72-hour mandate for bills to be published before a vote, and a pledge to attempt a constitutional amendment that would place federal limits on the number of terms a person can serve in both houses of Congress. and elders.
The chairman of the Freedom Caucus in the room, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, seemed receptive, tweeting Ronald Reagan’s quote, “Trust but Verify.”
Lest hopes outpace reality, conservative holdout Ralph Norman of South Carolina said, “This is a first round.”
“We’ve made some progress going,” McCarthy said, deflecting questions about the drawn-out and chaotic process. “It’s not the way you start, it’s the way you end.”
With McCarthy’s supporters and opponents deadlocked, the House of Representatives cannot fully open the new session, essentially deadlocked, unable to swear in elected members and conduct official business. Feelings of boredom, despair and annoyance were increasingly apparent on Thursday.
One of McCarthy’s critics, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, cast his vote for Donald Trump — a symbolic but visible sign of the wide divisions over the future of the Republican Party. He then went further, moving today from protest to absurdity in formally nominating the former president to be Speaker of the House on the eleventh ballot. Trump got one vote, from Gates, which prompted laughter.
As the night falls before the second anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters who were trying to overturn Joe Biden’s election, Democrats said it was time to get serious. The speaker’s divisive fight only emphasized the fragility of American democracy that attack exposed.
“This holy House needs a leader,” said Democrat Joe Ngose of Colorado, who has nominated his party’s leader, Hakeem Jeffries, as speaker.
McCarthy could be seen speaking, one-on-one, in whispered, animated conversations in the House chamber. His emissaries swooped in to the holdouts, and grueling negotiations began in the office of the Republican party whip down the hall. Through defeat after defeat, McCarthy remained determined to persuade Republicans to end the crippling debate that had blighted his newfound GOP majority.
What began as a political novelty, the first time since 1923 that a candidate had not won a sledgehammer on the first vote, turned into a bitter feud with the Republican Party and a deepening potential crisis.
Democrat Jeffries of New York won the most votes on each ballot but also stayed short of a majority. McCarthy ran second and gained no ground.
The pressure increased with each passing day for McCarthy to somehow find the votes he needed or step down. Incoming Republican chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Forces, and Intelligence committees have said national security is at stake.
Republicans Michael McCaul, Mike Rogers and Mike Turner wrote in a joint statement: “The Biden administration is running unchecked and there is no oversight of the White House.” “We cannot allow personal politics to jeopardize the safety and security of the United States.”
But McCarthy’s right-wing critics, led by the Freedom Caucus and Trump allies, sounded more emboldened – even though the former president publicly supported McCarthy.
GOP bastions put up again and again the name of Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, ensuring a continuing stalemate that increasingly carried the undercurrents of race and politics. They also trailed Republican Kevin Hearn of Oklahoma, splitting the protest vote.
Donalds, who is black, is seen as an emerging party leader and counterpoint to the Republican Party of the Democratic leader, Jefferies, who is the first black leader of a major political party in the US Congress and is on his way to becoming president one day.
Another black Republican, newly elected John James, nominated McCarthy on the seventh ballot as the candidates became prominent names in the Republican Party. On the 10th, newly elected Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, an immigrant from Mexico whose speech drew cheers of “USA! USA!”
A new generation of conservative Republicans, many of whom align with Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, want a change of business as usual in Washington and are committed to stemming McCarthy’s rise without compromising their priorities.
But those who oppose McCarthy don’t all have the same grievances, and he may never be able to win over some of them.
The disorganized start to the new Congress signaled the difficulties facing the Republicans who now controlled the House, just as some previous Republican speakers, including Boehner, had difficulty leading the recalcitrant right wing. The result: a government shutdown, confrontation, and early retirement for Boehner.
The longest running battle for gavel began in late 1855 and lasted for two months, with 133 ballots cast, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.
Associated Press writers Marie Claire Jalonik and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.