Washington, Jan 3 (EFE).- The US House of Representatives ended its session on Tuesday without having elected a new Republican speaker to replace outgoing Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, given that GOP lawmakers could not agree on who the new head of the slim Republican majority in the lower chamber should be.
Kevin McCarthy failed in three successive votes to get the required support of 218 congressman and thus be elected speaker. It was the first time in a century that a speaker has failed to be chosen on the very first balloting.
McCarthy said on Tuesday morning that he did not have enough votes from his Republican colleagues to be elected speaker outright but he promised to fight to the bitter end in his years-long quest to lead the lower chamber, control of which was seized from the Democrats by the GOP in last November’s elections.
With 202 votes on the third balloting, the head of the Republican caucus, who represents a California district, failed to obtain the necessary 218 votes he needed to replace Pelosi. In fact, that was one vote less than he had received on the second balloting, a result that may – or may not – be an ominous sign.
Twenty dissident Republicans voted for Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, who moments earlier had called for his colleagues to vote for McCarthy and thus does not appear – publicly at least – to be angling for the speakership himself, although he got 19 votes on the second balloting and 20 on the third.
Andy Biggs of Arizona initially had received 10 votes.
The candidate for the new Democratic minority in the House, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, obtained 212 votes from his own colleagues, who appear to be united, in contrast to the fragmented Republican caucus.
The far-right wing of the Republican Party, grouped into the so-called Freedom Caucus, is continuing to block the election of a new House speaker, although the chamber cannot move forward with any business, or even swear in its members, until a speaker is chosen by majority vote.
House rules do not set forth any course of action other than to keep holding ballotings until – through political horsetrading or sheer exhaustion – somebody manages to obtain the required majority, thus emerging as speaker.
Ultraconservative lawmakers have condemned McCarthy for not negotiating with them regarding one of their demands, namely changing the House rules to allow them to more easily oust a sitting speaker, and also for not specifying in advance who among their number will be appointed to head congressional committees in the new Republican-dominated session.
The speaker of the House is third in line to lead the counry, and is the official who could automatically ascend to the presidency if both the president and the vice president were killed, incapacitated or removed from office.
Although the Republicans won a majority in the House in the Nov. 8 elections and could complicate things for Democratic President Joe Biden during the last two years of his term, their victory was much narrower than many had forecast.
Democrats managed to retain their majority – in fact they increased that majority by one seat – in the Senate.
Moderate Republicans blame their relatively poor showing in the 2022 mid-term elections to the influence of former President Donald Trump, while the right wing of the party attributes their failure to perform up to historical standards to the campaign strategy designed by McCarthy.