Chaos and gridlock have gripped politics in the United States in an "embarrassing" struggle not seen for 100 years.
The Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives at the midterm elections in November, but won far fewer seats than widely predicted giving the party only a small majority in the lower house. Now Kevin McCarthy – who was minority leader for the Republicans in the House for the past two years during Democrat control – is floundering in his attempts to claim the speakership thanks to an insurrection from the right-wing of his own party.
For a sixth time this morning, Republicans tried to vote McCarthy into the top job but 20 conservative holdouts are still refusing to support him, leaving him far short of the 218 votes typically needed to win the gavel.
The impasse leaves the political system in disarray as no work can be carried out until the matter is settled. The Democrats have even been accused of drinking during the drawn out process.
US president Joe Biden told reporters it was "embarrassing it was taking so long", a sentiment echoed by his predecessor Donald Trump on Wednesday (local time), who urged Republicans to vote for McCarthy. "Close the deal, take the victory," he wrote on his social media site, using all capital letters. "Do not turn a great triumph into a giant & embarrassing defeat."
The work of the chamber – swearing in new members, forming committees, tackling legislation, investigating the Biden administration – will have to wait until the vote is sorted. But that shows no sign of happening any time soon.
Far right group of Republicans causing chaos
A far right group of Republicans known as the Freedom Caucus are continuing to oppose McCarthy for the powerful role, instead nominating protest candidates even making history by nominating a black candidate, which the Democrats also did by putting forth New York representative Hakeem Jeffries, who continues to get the most votes each round.
"This country needs leadership," said Texan Republican Chip Roy, noting the first time in history two black Americans were nominated for the high office, prompting lawmakers from both parties to rise and applaud.
Amid all the pomp, ceremony and grandstanding, it's unclear how things will shake out with the Freedom Caucus wanting McCarthy to step aside as they believe he's neither conservative enough nor tough enough to battle Democrats.
This new generation of conservative Republicans, many aligned with Trump’s Make America Great Again agenda, want to upend business as usual in Washington, and appear committed to stopping McCarthy’s rise.
To win support, the Californian representative has already agreed to many of their demands, with the group agitating for rules changes and other concessions that give rank-and-file members more influence in the legislative process.
Not since 1923 has a speaker’s election gone to multiple ballots, and the longest and most gruelling 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.
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