WASHINGTON (AFP) – Republican favourite Kevin McCarthy was finally elected speaker of the United States (US) House of Representatives early yesterday, ending a paralysing standoff with right-wing holdouts that raised concerns about his party’s ability to exercise power in Congress.
McCarthy’s victory required an historic 15 rounds of voting and was secured only after a late-night session of high drama that saw Republican members almost come to blows as tempers flared.
It also required major concessions to the small group of Republican conservatives who had opposed his candidacy, and turned what would normally be a showcase of party unity into a days-long display of internal division.
The speaker wields key influence in Washington by presiding over House business and is second in line to the presidency, after the vice president.
But McCarthy has been weakened out of the gate by the protracted election and the promises he was forced to make to hardliners, who demonstrated the leverage they hold given the Republicans’ wafer-thin majority in the lower house of Congress. “Speaker in Name Only” read the headline in the influential Atlantic magazine.
The chaos and confusion, watched with both glee and contempt by Democratic rivals across the aisle, could signal years of legislative and decision-making paralysis on consequential issues for the country and the wider world. As he accepted the gavel in the early hours of Saturday, McCarthy, who was backed by former president Donald Trump, outlined the Republicans’ aggressive lines of attack ahead of the 2024 presidential race.
He vowed to “pass bills to fix the nation’s challenges, from the wide open Southern border to ‘America last’ energy policies, to woke indoctrination in our schools”.