If you’re desperate to escape the war of the Royals, a cursory glance across the Atlantic doesn’t inspire much confidence in our leaders. After 11 rounds of votes, Congresspeople failed to elect a Speaker of the House of Representatives to replace Nancy Pelosi. A reminder: the House Speaker presides over the lower House of Congress and is second in the Presidential line of succession (after the Vice President). The constitution demands Congress selects a Speaker before it moves on to legislating. 

With the Republicans gaining the House of Representatives in November’s midterms, their leader – Kevin McCarthy – should have been a shoo-in. Yet, as Reaction has reported, instead of becoming Speaker, McCarthy, as leader of the House Republican Conference, has become the House Majority Loser. 

Only a simple majority of representatives is necessary to become speaker. While the Democrats have displayed unity behind Hakeem Jeffries, their new House Minority Leader, there is little chance of him becoming Speaker unless a large number of Republicans defected and turned blue. 

That’s not going to happen. The 20 Republicans depriving McCarthy of his long-held dream of becoming Speaker are on the right, McCarthy has resisted calls to step aside and Democrats are unwilling to work with the Republicans for a different Speaker. Speaking to reporters, McCarthy said: “So if this takes a little longer and it doesn’t meet your deadline, that’s OK.” 

Voting for the 12th round resumed 5pm Friday, UK time, having started on Tuesday. It surpassed the previous record of 1923, when nine rounds of voting were required. The next record to beat would be the 44 rounds of voting required in 1859. McCarthy’s own level of support dropped from 203 in the first round to 200 in later rounds, with 218 votes needed to win a simple majority. McCarthy can therefore only afford to lose the support of four Republicans, if all 434 current members cast ballots. 

Despite McCarthy appearing to agree to demands that would allow just one member of the House to call a vote of no confidence in the Speaker, that did not increase his support. Similarly, McCarthy allowed more members of the Freedom Caucus to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee, which determines how and whether bills come to the floor. 

The Freedom Caucus is chaired by Pennsylvania’s Scott Perry, who played a key role in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. Largely born out of the conservative Tea Party movement that opposed President Obama, its ideology lies in economic austerity and libertarianism. 

Given the huge money in American politics, a McCarthy-backed PAC – the Congressional Leadership Fund – agreed a deal with the Club for Growth not to spend in any open-seat primaries in safe Republican districts, increasing the chances of future right-wing representatives. 

Though Donald Trump endorsed McCarthy, Lauren Boebert, a Republican rebel, said the former president should be urging McCarthy to withdraw. Indeed, Matt Gaetz, a Republican of Florida, voted twice for Donald Trump. They both supported Kevin Hern, an Oklahoma congressman, in later ballots, despite Hern himself backing McCarthy.  

How long can this go on for? If McCarthy keeps losing, a unity Republican candidate who can unite both factions may be necessary. Steve Scalise, a congressman from Louisiana and McCarthy’s deputy, has been touted as a compromise candidate. Whatever happens next, this Speaker election has been a historic one. 

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