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US House Breaks Century-old Record with 11 Failed Votes for Speaker

US House Breaks Century-old Record with 11 Failed Votes for Speaker, EFE

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The US House of Representatives on Thursday held five votes to try and elect a new speaker, breaking the record set in 1923, when lawmakers needed nine votes to break their deadlock and settle on someone to lead the lower house of Congress.

After three votes were held on both Tuesday and Wednesday with no result, five additional votes were held during the afternoon and early evening on Thursday but no candidate was able to obtain the required 218 votes that would ensure they would emerge from the turmoil as speaker.

Republican Kevin McCarthy of California has been in the running all 11 times that lawmakers have voted but he has never been able to obtain more than 203 votes, compared with the Democratic candidate Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who has obtained the support of all of his 212 party members in each balloting.

In the 10th vote on Thursday, McCarthy obtained 200 votes, and he has seen his support wane slightly, originally having the support of 203 Republican lawmakers but with a dissident group of some 20 far-right GOP members refusing to back him and thus keeping the House in limbo, despite the fact that he has offered them a series of concessions to try and entice them to swing the election his way with their support.

Meanwhile, in the 10th balloting, GOP lawmakers Byron Donalds and Kevin Hern received 13 and 7 votes, respectively, from that far-right group, while one lawmaker merely voted “present.”

The conservatives, grouped under the so-called Freedom Caucus, have been blocking McCarthy’s election since Tuesday demanding that he agree to facilitate censure motions for the speaker —substantially weakening that office— and dole out committee seats to their members, substantially increasing their congressional clout.

The House cannot move forward with any business until a speaker is elected and the rules of the lower chamber provide only that votes must continue to be taken until —via political horsetrading or sheer exhaustion— lawmakers manage to give a majority to someone.

During the votes on Thursday and in the recesses in between them, many lawmakers gathered in groups with long and tired faces to discuss the situation, which appears to be even more logjammed than it was on the first day of voting earlier in the week.

In the 11th vote on Thursday evening, former President Donald Trump had been nominated to the speakership, although his election to that office was, in that balloting at least, was an impossibility given that he only obtained 1 vote. The other 20 votes of the GOP holdouts were divided among several other candidates. Jeffries, meanwhile, once again received 212 votes while McCarthy obtained 200.

In 1923, the House speaker was elected on the ninth balloting, while in 1869 the speaker was not elected until the 60th balloting, a process that took two months.