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US House adjourns after 3 rounds of voting fail to elect new Speaker

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Steve Scalise, the Republican whip in the US House of Representatives, could step up if Kevin McCarthy fails to obtain the votes to be speaker in 2023; Scalise is seen here speaking on November 15, 2022./AFP
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Jan 04, 2023 - 07:56 AM

WASHINGTON (AA) – The US House of Representatives adjourned Tuesday evening after three successive votes failed to elect a new Speaker amid persistent Republican infighting.

No nominee was able to secure a majority of the votes in the 435-member chamber in what marks a major blow to Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who faced repeated defeats not at the hands of his rival Democrats, but from his fellow Republicans.

The political spectacle marks the first such time in 100 years that a nominee initially failed to win enough support to become the chamber’s leader.

McCarthy ultimately saw his support drop from initial rounds that saw 203 votes in his favor, hitting 202 in the third tally after a detractor joined 19 rival Republicans in supporting Representative Jim Jordan.

Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries took 212 votes, six shy of the necessary threshold, though he is not expected to cross it given a complete lack of support among the Republican majority.

The House held a voice vote to adjourn until noon on Wednesday to continue the process of selecting a new Speaker. In the interim, backdoor talks will continue among McCarthy and his fellow Republicans in hopes of cementing the votes he needs to secure the Speaker’s gavel.

All of the chamber’s Democrats voted for Jeffries, in stark contrast to the tumult rocking Republicans.

McCarthy can afford to lose the support of just four fellow Republicans if all of the chamber’s 435 members cast their votes for a candidate and Democrats do not lend any support. A nominee can still win the speakership without an outright majority if some members vote present, but none did during the first three rounds.

Formally nominating McCarthy, Representative Elise Stefanik said “no one in this body has worked harder for this Republican majority than” the California Republican.

“As a Republican leader over the past several years, Kevin has taken the fight to one-party Democrat rule on behalf of the American people,” she said.

But 20 Republicans disagreed, with nearly all initially splitting their support between Representative Andy Biggs and Representative Jim Jordan before coalescing around Jordan in the second round. Jordan has said he has no ambitions to become Speaker and has urged his fellow Republicans to back McCarthy.

McCarthy has faced stiff opposition from a core group who are staunchly aligned with former President Donald Trump and his Make America Great Again movement.

In a Jan. 1 letter led by Representative Scott Perry, nine of McCarthy’s Republican detractors expressed dissatisfaction with concessions he has already put forward, saying he “bears squarely the burden to correct the dysfunction he now explicitly admits across” his 14-year tenure in Republican leadership.

“Thus far, there continues to be missing specific commitments to virtually every component of our entreaties, and thus, no means to ensure whether promises are kept or broken,” the Republicans wrote in their New Year’s Day missive.

Speaking as he nominated Jeffries for House Speaker, Representative Pete Aguilar made repeated digs at Republicans and their feud.

“Today, Madam Clerk, House Democrats are united,” Aguilar said to applause, “united by a speaker who will put people over politics.”

“We are unified behind a speaker who is an unapologetic advocate for protecting and expanding our freedoms. He does not traffic in extremism, does not grovel to or make excuses for a twice impeached so-called former president,” added the California lawmaker, referring to Trump.

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