“Terrorist”, “Taliban” … Republican civil war story around Kevin McCarthy

From our correspondent in California,

Two days, six ballots, and a “House” still no “Speakers”. The civil war that is tearing Republicans apart to elect Kevin McCarthy to the House of Representatives continued Wednesday, with about twenty elected officials decisively rejecting a candidate supported by Donald Trump. Each faction camped in its positions, and pitches rose, until the chaotic suspension of the session in the evening, pending a new vote at noon Thursday (6:00 p.m., Paris time).

After Tuesday’s blockade, Donald Trump tried to whistle at the end of recess at Truth Social Wednesday morning. “Time to pick Kevin and close the deal. Don’t turn a big win into an embarrassing defeat. Kevin McCarthy will do a great job, and maybe even a SUPER job,” said the former president, who endured winters under the Florida sun, at his Mar-a-Lago residence.

But his influence on Republicans may be coming to an end. “Sad! (“sad”), trolls Matt Gaetz, one of the leaders of the sling, in a deliberately Trumpian fashion. Confirmation at 1pm for 4th round of voting: none of Tuesday’s 20 rebels changed their vote to backing Kevin McCarthy They voted this time for Florida Representative Byron Donalds, stressing that it was “historic” to have two African-American candidates, with Democrat Hakeem Jeffries.

Kevin McCarthy was stubborn and outvoted in the 4th round, with a Republican elected deciding to vote “go in”.

Kevin McCarthy has dreamed of becoming a Speaker since 2015. – Getty Images via AFP

Alcohol, popcorn and “suicide bombers”

In the 5th round, it was Lauren Boebert, re-elected in November in Colorado, who again named Byron Donalds. He decried pressure from his “favorite president”. Dan recommended him to call Kevin McCarthy to tell him “you don’t have a voice, it’s time to throw in the towel”. But McCarthy refused and played with the suit, to no avail. The 5th round produced a similar result, with the Democrats rallying around Jeffries. Backed down by 21 Republicans, McCarthy finished with 201 votes, short of a majority of 218.

An elected Republican then spoke out and accused Democrats of having fun in the spectacle by “eating popcorn and drinking alcohol”. “No rules” in the Speaker’s absence, shouted members of the Opposition. After the 6th round without changes, elected officials closed the session until 20.00.

During the negotiations, Dan Crenshaw elected, a former Navy SEAL who had lost an eye in Afghanistan, denounced in an interview the coup by 20 “terrorists” whom he later described as “suicide bombers”. The day before, his colleague Don Bacon had nicknamed them “20 Taliban”.

“I would never vote” McCarthy

To understand this blockage, you have to go back 15 years, to the Tea Party era. Populist, anti-establishment elected officials ready to blow things up arrive in the Chamber, refusing any compromise, particularly on the debt ceiling, even if it means causing a federal “shutdown.” The movement didn’t last but in 2015 gave birth to the Freedom caucus, a parliamentary group of ten elected officials co-founded by Jim Jordan, Mick Mulvaney and Mark Meadows – both of whom would later become Donald Trump’s chief of staff.

The group’s founding principle: opposition to then Republican Speaker John Boehner. Who gave up in late 2015, calling the Freedom caucus “legislative terrorists” and “anarchists who want chaos”. Kevin McCarthy was seen as the natural successor, but the band turned him down. He withdrew his candidacy after something went wrong, and it ended up being Paul Ryan who played the man of fate and grabbed the hammer.

With a Republican majority currently of just four seats, the Freedom Caucus, which now has about 40 members, has never wielded more power, and is divided over McCarthy. California representatives have been crawling around in recent weeks, offering them several concessions, with committee positions and reinstating rules that would allow motions to be tabled to try to remove the Speaker with only five shortlisted. But the slingers want to lower the threshold to just one elected official, as is an ancient rule that is rarely used. And after another meeting, Matt Gaetz said he was ready to “vote all week, all month, but never for” McCarthy.

Chaotic progress and session suspension

While the horizon seems more blocked than ever to McCarthy, progress can be made. The Republican Party’s influential political action committee, the Congressional Leadership Fund, has vowed to remain neutral in future primaries, giving anti-system candidates a chance. Instead, the Club for Growth, an organization that has funded elected officials who oppose McCarthy, has pledged to support him, which could in theory give him six more votes. It wouldn’t be enough – he would need ten more – but it would give him “momentum”.

Hailing the “progress”, Kevin McCarthy and his allies later requested that the meeting be adjourned until Thursday afternoon. Voting, this time electronic, plays out at the end of the shot, with an elected official running through the Chamber to write his answer on the ballot. And while “no” would have won, rebellious Paul Gosar changed his voice to “yes”, allowing everyone to go home to rest. The clock is ticking: The Chamber cannot function without the Speaker, and MPs will not be paid from 13 January. By 1923, the vote had reached its 9th round. In 1856, chaos had been going on for two months.

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