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Republican leader suffers once-in-a-century setback

Kevin McCarthy lost a vote to become House Speaker, after his own colleagues backed alternative candidates

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy has lost his bid to become speaker of the House of Representatives, after 19 of his GOP colleagues voted against him. Considered too moderate by these dissenting Republicans, McCarthy is the first party leader to lose a speaker’s contest in 100 years.

McCarthy received 203 votes when Congress convened to choose a speaker on Tuesday, falling short of the 218 needed to secure a majority. With the Republicans holding a 222-213 seat majority in the House, McCarthy could have lost the votes of only four of his colleagues and still become speaker. Instead, 19 Republicans voted for other lawmakers.

With Democrats voting almost unanimously, Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries earned more votes – 212 – than McCarthy.

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Despite McCarthy’s loss, further rounds of voting will likely follow, with the California Republican using the time in between to win back some of the dissenters. The last time a speaker’s contest went more than a single round of voting was in 1923, when lawmakers took nine ballots to appoint Republican Frederick Gillett to the position.

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The pro-Trump ‘Freedom Caucus’ has led opposition to McCarthy, whom they consider too open to compromise with the Democrats. 

“We struggle with trust with Mr. McCarthy because time and again his viewpoints, his positions, they shift like sands underneath you,” Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the most prominent of this group, told reporters before the vote. “If you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise.”

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Arizona’s Andy Biggs won ten votes from the dissenting Republicans, while Ohio’s Jim Jordan took six. Although Jordan gave a speech endorsing McCarthy after the vote, it appeared to have the opposite effect on the hardliners, with Gaetz responding with a speech endorsing Jordan instead. 

McCarthy told ABC News that the vote was “exactly what we thought it’d be,” accusing Gaetz’ caucus of “trying to fight for their own personal items instead of the country.” 

With no viable alternative, it is unclear how many rounds of voting will need to be held before a speaker is chosen. No other House business can take place until a leader is selected, meaning Congress could grind to a halt if the GOP doesn’t resolve the dissent in its ranks.

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January 04, 2023 at 02:13AM
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