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McCarthy’s bid for speaker to continue, says Trump backs him

McCarthy said Trump wants him to stay in the race and told him to end Republican chaos in the House of Representatives and rally the party.

WASHINGTON – Republicans in the House of Representatives will open the second day of the new Congress the same way they did the first – with leader Kevin McCarthy trying to become Speaker of the House of Representatives despite losing several rounds of voting that plunged the new GOP majority into chaos.

It was the first time in 100 years that a House Speaker candidate failed to pick up the gavel on the first ballot, but McCarthy didn’t seem to be deterred by the seriousness of the moment. Instead, he vowed to fight to the end, encouraged, he says, by former President Donald Trump to end the turmoil and rally the Republican Party.

The House of Representatives is due to meet on Wednesday after the impasse has essentially brought everything else to a standstill while waiting for the Republicans to elect a speaker.

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

McCarthy said Trump wants him to stay in the race and told him to end Republican chaos in the House of Representatives and rally the party.

The former president “wants Republicans to come together to be able to do exactly what we promised to do,” McCarthy said.

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

It was a tumultuous start to the new Congress, indicating difficulties ahead as the Republicans now control the House of Representatives.

Tensions escalated among the new House majority as their campaign promises stalled. Without a speaker, the House cannot fully form — swear in its members, appoint committee chairs, sit in court, and launch investigations into the Biden administration. Legislators’ families waited around as the usual holiday turned into chaos as children played in the aisles or writhed in their parents’ arms.

But it was completely unclear how the embattled leader of the Republican Party could bounce back to defeat right-wing conservatives who reject his leadership. It usually takes a majority in the House of Representatives, 218 votes, to become Speaker – although the threshold can be lowered if members are absent or simply vote in presence, a strategy that McCarthy appears to have considered.

McCarthy won no more than 203 votes in three ballots, losing as many as 20 Republicans from his narrow majority of 222 seats.

At no time since 1923 has a speaker been elected by multiple ballots, and the longest and most grueling struggle for the gavel began in late 1855 and dragged on for two months, with 133 ballots cast, during the slavery debate leading up to the Civil War. .

“Kevin McCarthy will not be speaker,” said Rep. Bob Good, of Virginia, one of the opponents.

A new generation of conservative Republicans, many of whom have joined Trump’s Make America Great Again program, want to flip business as usual in Washington and were determined to stop McCarthy’s rise without giving in to their priorities.

In many ways, the challenge from the far right was reminiscent of the last time the Republicans seized power in the House of Representatives, when the Tea Party Republicans brought in a hard line and shut down the government after gaining control in the 2010 midterm elections.

As the spectacle of the vote dragged on, McCarthy supporters pleaded with dissenters to join the California Republican.

“We’re all here to get things done,” Republican second-ranking Rep. Steve Scalise said in a speech nominating McCarthy for the vote and urging his colleagues to drop the protest.

Speaking against Democratic President Joe Biden’s agenda, Scalise, himself a arguably GOP compromise choice, said: “We can’t start addressing these issues until we elect Kevin McCarthy as our next speaker.”

But opponents forced a third and final ballot before Republican leaders quickly adjourned Tuesday night.

“The American people are watching, and that’s a good thing,” said Rep. Chip Roy, of Texas, who nominated fellow Conservative Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as an alternative speaker.

Jordan, McCarthy’s rival-turned-ally, has been pushed forward twice by the Conservatives but doesn’t seem to want the job. The Ohio Republican is on track to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and he rose during the debate to convince his colleagues to vote for McCarthy instead.

“We have to rally around him, come together,” Jordan said.

Overall, a core group of 19 Republicans – and then 20 – voted for someone other than McCarthy. On the first ballot, votes were sent to Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Jordan, and others, while only Jordan received votes on the next two ballots.

The standoff around McCarthy has been building since the Republicans were on track to win a majority in the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections. While the Senate remains in Democratic hands, Republicans in the House of Representatives are hardly prepared to stand up to Biden after two years in which Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. The conservative Freedom Caucus led the opposition to McCarthy, believing that he was not conservative enough and not strong enough to fight the Democrats.

To rally support, McCarthy has already agreed to many of the demands of the Freedom Caucus, which campaigned for rule changes and other concessions to give lay members more say in the legislative process. He’s been here before, withdrawing from the speaker’s race in 2015 when he failed to beat the Conservatives.

Late Tuesday night, pizza, Chick-fil-A and tacos were scattered around the Capitol’s various conference rooms after a failed vote as McCarthy’s supporters and opponents squatted down to figure out how to elect a speaker.

“Everything is on the table,” said McCarthy ally Rep. Patrick McHenry, RN.C. “Wait,” he said, forcing the leader to step aside. “Not at all. It’s not on the table.”

Rep. Scott Perry, a Republican from Pennsylvania, chairman of the Freedom Caucus and leader of Trump’s efforts to fight the 2020 presidential election, said earlier that McCarthy must meet their demands and change the dynamic.

Democrats have enthusiastically nominated Jeffreys, who becomes party leader, as their running mate—a typically symbolic gesture for a minority, but it has taken on new meaning when Republicans disagree with each other.

Although Jeffreys received the most votes overall, 212, this was not the majority to become Speaker.

McCarthy focused on those numbers late Tuesday evening. If McCarthy could garner 213 votes and then convince the remaining naysayers to simply vote in attendance, he could lower the threshold required by the rules to win a majority.

It’s a strategy used by former House speakers, including outgoing Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Speaker John Boehner, when they faced opposition, winning the gavel with fewer than 218 votes.

McCarthy said late Tuesday at the Capitol: “You get 213 votes and no other name is given by others, that’s how you can win.”

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