The Republican Party’s favorite candidate for leader, Kevin McCarthy, lost three rounds of voting yesterday.
Despite opposition from fellow conservatives, he vowed not to budge.
Tonight at 18:00 Norwegian time, the members gather for another try.
We asked two American experts, Sofie Høgestøl and Hilde Eliassen Restad, about the unfolding drama.
Drama in voting to become the new leader in Congress – the favorite is in trouble
What is the significance of this leadership position?
Speaker of the House of Representatives i Congressor “Speaker of the House” as it is called in the United States, is the third most important political office after the President and Vice President.
If both the president and vice president die, resign, or are impeached, the leader of the House of Representatives is the one who takes over the country’s leadership.
The first thing the new representatives must do after the election is choose a new leader who will swear by the others. The party with the majority also gets all the committee chair positions, which in turn gives them the power to set the agenda.
In November’s midterm elections, Republicans gained a majority in the House of Representatives and now hold power there, while Democrats retained a majority in the Senate.
Hilda Eliassen-Rystad is an expert on the United States and Associate Professor at Björkness College.
– This is very important, because before a leader is elected, nothing is done. They are not allowed to swear in new representatives, nor begin the work that is being done.
The leader controls the composition of the committee and any legislative proposals that will be reviewed and possibly voted on. This person is also the leader of the majority party.
– So there are two important roles, says Eliassen Rystad.
How unusual was what happened yesterday?
The House of Representatives has elected a leader 127 times since 1789. Only 14 times have they previously been necessary.
For a candidate to be elected leader, he needs the support of more than half of the 435 deputies. This means support from at least 218.
Democratic leadership candidate Hakim Jeffreys got 212 votes, i.e. everyone supported him, in the three rounds of voting yesterday. The last of the Democrats’ 213 seats are currently vacant due to the death.
Kevin McCarthy, who was the Republican minority leader until the new year, received 203 and 202 votes, respectively, in the first two rounds. 222. Not much is enough.
– Over the past 100 years, the party with the majority has managed to sit down and find one candidate. explains Sofie Høgestøl, who is fromorsteamanuensis in jurisprudence at the University of Oslo.
Usually, the candidate from the party with the majority has already secured all the votes he needs, according to Hilda Eliassen Rystad.
– Nancy Pelosi, the now-departed leader of the Democrats, was famous for not taking a vote on something she didn’t know she had enough votes to win, no matter what it was about.
McCarthy’s challenge is that since the 2010 midterm elections, there has been an increasing percentage of ultra-Republicans elected to Congress. They kind of hold the cards now, because the Republican majority is so small that many of these Radical Republicans get veto power.
– So, Kevin McCarthy needs to get your vote to win. It is not certain that they are negotiating in good faith, Eliassen Rystad says.
What is happening in the Republican Party?
The rift between moderate and radical Republicans has been going on since Barack Obama took office, according to Eliasin Rystad.
The group calls itself the Freedom Gathering, or “Freedom Gathering”.
They expressed their strong dissatisfaction with the Republican leadership, and did not want the Republicans in Congress to cooperate with the then Democratic administration.
That time ended with the Leader of the House, John Boehner, having to resign. His successor, Paul Ryan, chose to leave national politics after grappling with the same issues.
– There is a civil war within the Republican Party, says Eliassen Rystad.
You definitely won’t calm down. I said before the midterms that for a Biden administration and for the Democrats, it could be an advantage if the Republicans won the House, because they wouldn’t be able to run it in any good way.
– Then Biden and the Democrats can point to them and say: Look at the mess! Vote for us in 2024.”
Whether the Radical Republicans want to vote for a replacement candidate or just a lowly McCarthy, Eliasin Rystad is unsure. She believes their goal is not for McCarthy to change his policies, but rather public humiliation.
McCarthy gave these radical Republicans everything they wanted. Therefore, it is natural to assume that they are not really interested in these negotiations. Perhaps it is more about humiliating the Republican leadership.
– If McCarthy steps aside, then of course someone else can make it happen. Then the prestige of the Radical Republicans will be lower.
What is the danger for Congress and the United States?
A majority in Congress may be at stake, Sophie Hugestol explains.
– In a way, this is exciting for the Democrats. If they can get more than four or five Republicans on their side, they can get a majority on issues. On the other hand, President Joe Biden should rule with these people. It depends on having a majority in Congress that can, among other things, pass the budget. It is important for the country.
– So pRiver If the Biden administration laughed a little bit yesterday, that’s serious too. Because it boils down to whether the United States has a functioning government in the next two years, explains attorney Høgestøl.
In her own party, McCarthy can only lose four supporters, she says, and points out the same as Eliasin Rystad.
– He spent Christmas promising a lot Dissidents. He promised them to adapt to rule changes, made political concessions, and made promises in the hope that they would support him.
– It didn’t work. The question now is does he have more to give when he has given almost everything? says Sophie Hugestol.
What will happen in the House of Representatives?
In short, no one knows for sure what will happen next.
The two experts said that the House of Representatives has no tools to resolve this situation other than to conduct new votes until someone succeeds.
This afternoon the fourth round of voting begins. The big question is whether Republicans rallied during the “recess”.
Many of McCarthy’s opponents belong to the pro-Trump wing of the Republican Party. Hours before today’s vote began, former President Donald Trump took to the stage and urged them to get behind McCarthy.
– What happened yesterday was a very political drama. But there was also a feeling that no one was in control. Here, the Republican leaders completely lost control. What is happening now, no one knows.
– I think the big question is: Did Kevin McCarthy succeed in getting a trustee for his party? Did he manage to get them in line or did he lose control so completely that something completely different could happen today, says Sofie Høgestøl.
Hilda Eliassen Rystad believes that the way forward depends largely on Kevin McCarthy’s pride and personal ambition.
– I think McCarthy’s strategy is to run these polls over and over until someone gives in and gets a majority.
– If there was another vote today and he didn’t win either, you might wonder how often he wants to look like a loser, Eliassen Rystad says.
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