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The elected members of the House of Representatives failed on Tuesday to elect a president in the first round. Republican Kevin McCarthy was unable to calm the revolt emanating from a group of Trumpists who did not consider him conservative enough.
A first in 100 years. The House of Representatives failed on Tuesday, January 3, to elect its president in the first round, following the failure of Republican Kevin McCarthy.
The big favorite to replace Nancy Pelosi, the 50-year-old was unable to calm the revolt emanating from a group of Trumpists who did not consider him conservative enough – an illustration of the dissension within the opposition party to Joe Biden.
House representatives will continue to vote until a speaker is elected.
The Republicans, who seized the majority in the Lower House in the November elections, have promised to use their new counter-power by opening a series of investigations into the American president, centered for example on his management of the pandemic.
But before launching such hostilities, they must at all costs agree to elect the speaker of the House of Representatives.
The election of the “speaker”, the third most important figure in American politics after the president and the vice-president, requires a majority of 218 votes.
The Trumpists play spoilsport
In the first round, Kevin McCarthy, a member of the Republican staff for more than ten years, collected only 203, 19 elected Trumpists having decided to play the spoilsports.
“Kevin doesn’t believe in anything, he has no ideology,” tackled Matt Gaetz, a turbulent elected official from Florida.
Kevin McCarthy’s candidacy is however widely supported within his party: the announcement of his nomination Tuesday in the hemicycle was received by a great standing ovation in the Republican ranks.
But the elected representative from California is weakened by the poor performance of the Republicans in the midterm elections.
The election of a President of the House of Representatives could be a matter of a few hours… or of several weeks: in 1856, the elected members of Congress only agreed after two months and 133 turns .
Kevin McCarthy seems to want to give pledges to this conservative fringe to prevent history from stuttering: in 2015, he had already narrowly failed to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in the face of a sling from the right wing of the party.
But he also can’t afford to go overboard and alienate moderate Republicans.
Although its room for maneuver is reduced, it currently has no credible competitor. Only the name of the group leader, Steve Scalise, circulates as a possible alternative, without his chances seem serious.
A test of Republican nuisance capacity
With Republicans in the majority in the House, Joe Biden and the Democrats won’t be able to push through big new projects.
But with a Senate in the hands of the Democrats, neither will their rivals.
Will they entrench themselves in a systematic opposition? This would require them to come together, while some of their elected officials – as during the vote on the budget before Christmas – voted with the Democrats.
The election of the “speaker” will therefore also be used to measure their capacity to cause harm to the president.
Facing a hostile House could prove a political boon for Joe Biden, if he confirms his intention to run again in 2024 – a decision he is due to announce at the start of the year.
In the event of legislative paralysis, he will undoubtedly blame the blocking on weakened Republicans, hoping to turn the situation to his advantage.