Rebels within the Republican Party have successfully derailed Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. McCarthy, who was nominated for the position back in November, needed 218 votes from the 434 members of congress in order to secure the position but only secured 202 in the first round of voting.
The position of House Speaker is a hugely important one as they are able to control the legislative agenda in the House and decide who sits on certain committees.
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How Was This Possible?
Back in November, the Republican Party secured control of the House of Representatives but only by a narrow margin. They won 222 of the 435 seats, meaning McCarthy could only afford four members of the Republican Party not to vote for him.
When he was nominated for the position in November he received 188 votes from his party meaning he was always facing an uphill battle to convince 34 Republican members that he was the best person for the job.
The main issue for McCarthy was convincing the right side of the party to vote for him. He is considered a more conservative member of the Republican party and is opposed by those who are more aligned with Donald Trump’s ideologies.
As such, McCarthy made some late concessions in a bid to secure his position. On Sunday evening, he unveiled a package of suggested rule changes that would change the way in which the Speaker of the House could be removed.
Specifically, one suggested change would have meant that any five Republican Party members could call for the Speaker’s removal at any time. Given that this change would weaken his position as Speaker, should he win the vote, it was arguably one last desperate roll of the dice.
The package did very little to convince those that needed convincing. Shortly after his package was announced, a letter signed by nine republicans was stating that the concessions had come “almost impossibly late.”
During the first round of voting on Tuesday afternoon, 20 republicans voted against McCarthy and have halted him, for now.
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What Happens Next?
With the first round of voting complete, the house is set to continue voting until McCarthy, or someone else, is successful. No business can be undertaken in the House until the speaker is in place.
This means that the 82 new members of the House, 47 Republicans, and 36 Democrats, won’t be able to be sworn in until there is a Speaker in place. As a result, it is shaping up to be a hectic and potentially embarrassing day for the Republican Pary and Kevin McCarthy.
Earlier today, McCarthy vowed to keep fighting if he doesn’t win the first vote and he has even started moving his boxes into the Speaker’s office. However, if he is unsuccessful again in the second round then he may be forced to stand down out of embarrassment. With such a large margin to close, it’s difficult to see a positive solution for him.
It is the first time since 1923 that a candidate for speaker has failed to secure the necessary number of votes in the first round of voting. On that occasion, it took nine ballots and several days for someone to finally receive a majority from the House.
If McCarthy does stand down then Members of Congress will then need to find someone else to run for the position, but with no obvious candidates, this could also be a struggle.