It took him four full days, fifteen rounds of voting and a series of concessions to his conservative party colleagues, but in the late hours of Saturday, Republican Kevin McCarthy was finally elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives. In the last round he received enough votes for his election, with no votes against, but a handful of abstentions. From now on, the Republican opposition can roll up its sleeves to make it as difficult as possible for President Biden to govern.
After a humiliating series of rejections by first 20, then seven, and finally just six fellow party members – explained by his allies as a “free exchange of ideas”, by Democrats as a “ridiculous struggle for power” – McCarthy (57) can take on the role of driver of the Republican agenda. Although it remains to be seen who will be chasing whom for the next two years. The most conservative members of the House, in exchange for their vote, received privileges from McCarthy that gave them disproportionate power in the 222-member Republican faction.
American media reported in recent days, among other things, that McCarthy has agreed to an adjustment to the rules that allow a single deputy to request a vote to impeach the president. This gives politically delicate moments an explosive charge. For example, it points to the inevitable moment when the House will have to agree to an expansion of the budget to allow for the payment of government debt. In conservative circles, the reduction of the government budget is something of an article of faith.
US financial and military aid to Ukraine could also be jeopardized if the most critical members of the House apply the emergency brake. McCarthy was light-hearted about his concessions to reporters on Thursday night. “I’d be a weaker Speaker if I worried about that.” American media also expected members of the Freedom Caucus, the most conservative faction, to play a more prominent role in key parliamentary committees.
This is McCarthy’s second run for the presidency. In 2015, he withdrew his candidacy when he realized he would not get the necessary number of votes. This time he stubbornly persisted, and en passant established a parliamentary record. The last time it took more than one round to elect a Speaker of the House was in 1923, when the election lasted nine rounds.
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