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U.S. House in turmoil with no speaker elected on second day of voting

The U.S. House of Representatives remained in turmoil, with no speaker elected on the second day of voting.

• January 5, 2023
Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump
Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump

The U.S. House of Representatives remained in turmoil, with no speaker elected on the second day of voting.

House members voted Wednesday night to adjourn until noon Thursday, prolonging a historical political stalemate that has paralysed the lower chamber.

U.S. Congressman, Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, failed to secure enough votes three times earlier in the day due to intra-party division.

House members voted three times on Tuesday, the opening day of the divided 118th Congress, but McCarthy fell short of the necessary votes to be the next speaker.

It was the first time a House speaker who maintained order, managed its proceedings, and governed the administration of its business on the lower chamber’s floor hadn’t been elected on the first ballot in 100 years.

The 435-seat House will have to vote until a speaker is elected with majority votes.

Before that, members cannot be sworn in, and committees cannot be formed with the rest of the business stalled.

U.S. Congresswoman, Elissa Slotkin, a Michigan Democrat, tweeted that the infighting “isn’t just a shame for Republicans, it’s bad for the entire country.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, reacted to the political drama surrounding the House speakership vote on Wednesday morning. According to him, it is embarrassing because it is taking so long.

“How do you think this looks to the rest of the world? It’s not a good look. It’s not a good thing,” Mr Biden told reporters at the White House before leaving for Hebron, Kentucky.

Mr McCarthy has the support of most House Republicans and former U.S. President Donald Trump. But a handful of hardliners have opposed his bid to lead the conference by arguing that he is insufficiently conservative while refusing to decentralise the speaker’s power.

The House has elected a speaker 127 times since 1789.

There have been 14 instances of speaker elections requiring multiple ballots. According to Congressional historians, 13 of 14 multiple-ballot elections occurred before the Civil War, when party divisions were more nebulous.

The last time a speaker election required two or more votes on the floor happened in 1923.

Harvard legal scholar, Laurence Tribe, tweeted on Wednesday that the House of Representatives, unlike the Senate, was not a continuing body.

“It must reassemble itself without full constitutional authority every two years, like someone rebuilding a ship on the open seas. But when the voyage is this rough, that’s a sign of dysfunction,” Mr Tribe said.

All House Democrats have voted for Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, to be the speaker.

Though it is unlikely for Jeffries to attain the position, he is set to become the first African American lawmaker to lead a party in either chamber of the U.S. Congress.

Republicans flipped the House in the 2022 midterm elections while Democrats held onto their majority in the Senate.

The new Congress convened for the first time on Tuesday, with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris presiding over the opening of the 100-people upper chamber in which Democrats control 51 seats versus 49 for Republicans.

Chuck Schumer from New York and Mitch McConnell from Kentucky remain the Senate majority leader and minority leader, respectively. 


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