Dhe Republicans in the American House of Representatives were unable to agree on a new speaker in the eleventh ballot on Thursday. Group leader Kevin McCarthy had already made further significant concessions to his opponents from the right-wing edge of the group before the seventh ballot. That wasn’t enough. Of the 222 Republicans, only 200 voted for McCarthy. He would have needed 218 votes to win.
McCarthy’s concessions had no effect on Republican voting. He had given up his opposition to the demand that in future every single MP be able to initiate the process that can lead to the vote-out of a speaker during the legislature. McCarthy had already conceded to his critics before the first round of voting that five MEPs would be sufficient for a corresponding motion for a resolution in future, but that did not go far enough for a number of MEPs.
Even if he should still be able to assert himself as speaker in a twelfth round of voting later on Friday or afterwards, McCarthy would have to reckon with frequent votes of no confidence during his term in office – at least every single MP could put him under pressure with the threat. More moderate Republicans are therefore critical of this change in the rules. McCarthy, however, said he was confident before Thursday’s first vote that he would eventually gain the post and keep it for a long time.
The House of Representatives currently has 434 members, with one seat vacant. The chamber is not operational until a speaker is elected. The last time it happened a hundred years ago was that this didn’t happen on the day of the constitutive session and in the first ballot. On Thursday, it was initially up to newly elected Congressman John James to formally nominate McCarthy. Amid laughter from his faction, he self-deprecatingly praised the Republicans for achieving “our first victory” on Wednesday. He was alluding to the fact that the House of Representatives had voted to adjourn the election to Thursday after three rounds of voting, all of which ended in the same way. Even in this vote, the parliamentary group only had a two-vote majority.
Push to limit the term of office of MPs
According to a report in the Washington Post newspaper, McCarthy also agreed in the intensive negotiations before the vote to include more members of the “freedom caucus” on the right-wing fringe of the group on the committee that sets the rules of procedure for the House of Representatives. Unlike in many parliaments, these rules also specify the topics on which MPs may introduce bills; in this respect, the set of rules is more reminiscent of a coalition agreement than of rules of procedure. According to the newspaper report, McCarthy gave his critics the right to introduce legislation introducing term limits for MPs.
Such demands are popular among the grassroots, but not among the majority of MPs. Traditionally, the influence of representatives and senators in Congress has depended heavily on their seniority. A vote on a term limit would be uncomfortable for many MPs. McCarthy is said to have also promised that MPs can try to pass specific border protection measures with bills.
McCarthy had also hoped that a non-aggression pact between two major campaign donors could turn the tide in his favor. The group “Congressional Leadership Fund” (CLF), which he led as faction leader, and the group “Club for Growth”, which is close to the party right, agreed to stay out of open primaries in Republican strongholds in the future.
On the right-wing fringes, many members of McCarthy resent the CLF’s promotion of more moderate Republicans even in constituencies where the Democrats have no realistic prospect of winning. If this is not done in the future, the weights in the group are likely to move even more towards the right edge in the future. Both groups receive donations from individuals and organizations and pass them on to candidates or their support groups at their discretion. For many candidates, political survival depends on grants. The House of Representatives is elected every two years, so MPs have to start organizing their re-election campaign coffers now.