US political stalemate as Republicans fail to elect a House Speaker

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By Euronews  with AP
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., is followed by reporters as he heads to the House Floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., is followed by reporters as he heads to the House Floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023.   -   Copyright  AP Photo

US politics is facing another unprecedented stalemate on Wednesday, after the Republican leader of Congress Kevin McCarthy failed to get enough votes from his own party to become Speaker of the House. 

It was the first time in 100 years that a nominee for House speaker could not take the gavel on the first vote, but McCarthy appeared undeterred by the gravity of the moment. Instead, he vowed to fight to the finish, encouraged, he said, by former President Donald Trump to end the disarray and pull the Republican Party together.

On Tuesday McCarthy lost multiple rounds of voting that threw his party into chaos.

The House is scheduled to convene Wednesday after the stalemate essentially forced all other business to a standstill, waiting on Republicans to elect a speaker.

“Today, is that the day I wanted to have? No,” McCarthy told reporters late Tuesday at the Capitol after a series of closed-door meetings.

McCarthy said Trump wants him to stay in the race and told him to bring an end to the House Republican chaos and pull the party together.

The former president “wants to see the Republicans united to be able to accomplish the exact things we said we'd do,” McCarthy said.

Asked if he would drop out, McCarthy said, “It’s not going to happen.”

It was a tumultuous start to the new Congress and pointed to difficulties ahead with Republicans now in control of the House.

Tensions flared among the new House majority as their campaign promises stalled out. Without a speaker, the House cannot fully form -- swearing in its members, naming its committee chairmen, engaging in floor proceedings and launching investigations of the Biden administration. 

Lawmakers’ families had waited around, as what’s normally a festive day descended into chaos, with kids playing in the aisles or squirming in parents’ arms.

But it was not at all clear how the embattled GOP leader could rebound to win over right-flank conservatives who reject his leadership. It typically takes a majority of the House to become speaker, 218 votes -- though the threshold can drop if members are absent or merely vote present, an strategy McCarthy appeared to be considering.

McCarthy won no more than 203 votes in three rounds of voting, losing as many as 20 Republicans from his slim 222-seat majority,

Not since 1923 has a speaker's election gone to multiple ballots, and the longest and most grueling fight for the gavel started in late 1855 and dragged out for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.

“Kevin McCarthy is not going to be a speaker,” declared Republican Bob Good from Virginia, one of the holdouts.

A new generation of conservative Republicans, many aligned with Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, want to upend business as usual in Washington, and are committed to stopping McCarthy’s rise without concessions to their priorities.

"The American people are watching, and it's a good thing," said Republican politician Chip Roy from Texas. He nominated fellow conservative Jim Jordan of Ohio as an alternative for speaker.

Jordan, the McCarthy rival-turned-ally, was twice pushed forward by conservatives, but he does not seem to want the job, and is urging his fellow Republicans to come together and rally around McCarthy.