Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday after making substantial concessions to right-wing extremists that raise questions about his party’s ability as a government.
Californian 57-year-old, Matt Gaetz withheld his vote for the 14th ballot at midnight. This prompted a fight in which Mike Rogers was physically pulled from the room.
McCarthy’s win in the 15th vote ended the worst congressional dysfunction for over 160 years. It also showed the challenges he faces in leading a small and highly polarized majority.
He was finally elected with a margin 216-212. His victory was achieved with less than half of the House’s votes. He did so because six members of his party withheld votes. They were not supporting McCarthy but they also didn’t vote for any other candidate.
McCarthy took the gavel first time and marked the end of President Joe Biden’s Democrats’ hold in both Congress chambers.
Our system was built upon checks and balances. McCarthy stated that it was time to balance the president’s policies and act as a check in this new system. He also gave his inaugural speech which outlined a range of priorities, including cutting spending, immigration reform, fighting cultural wars, and more.
McCarthy was only elected after he agreed to the demand of hardliners for any lawmaker to be free and able at will to remove him. This will severely limit his power when he tries to pass legislation that addresses critical issues such as funding the country, the country’s debt ceiling, and any other possible crises.
The Republicans’ less-than-expected performance in November’s midterm elections gave them a 222-212 majority. This has allowed for disproportionate power to right-wingers opposed to McCarthy’s leadership.
These concessions including sharp spending cuts, and other restrictions on McCarthy’s power, may lead to more turbulence over the coming months, particularly when Congress must approve a new increase in America’s $31.4 trillion borrowing capacity.
In an attempt to obtain steep spending cuts and to shut down large swathes of government, Republicans repeatedly tried to do just that over the last decade.
Many hardliners question McCarthy’s willingness for such brinkmanship in negotiations with Biden (whose Democrats control the Senate), and have raised concerns about this. In the past, they have been agitated by Senate Republicans headed by Mitch McConnell who agreed to compromise agreements.
Hardliners also included Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry from Pennsylvania and Chip Roy, of Texas. They claimed that the concessions made to McCarthy would make it easier for them to continue such tactics, or force them to vote again on McCarthy’s leadership if he fails to live up to their expectations.
Perry stated that there are historic changes to the way we spend and allocate money.
We don’t want debt ceilings that are clean and continue to be paid without any counteracting efforts to reduce spending.
One of those Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, warned that the concessions McCarthy made to “the extremists” in his party may come back to haunt him, and made it more likely that the Republican-controlled House will cause a government shutdown or default with “devastating consequences.”
Biden and McConnell were together in Kentucky Wednesday, in stark contrast to the House Republican battles. They wanted to emphasize infrastructure investments.
McCarthy’s late victory was a day after two years of an attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. In that incident, a mob attacked Congress to try and overturn President Donald Trump’s loss in the election.
The 14 votes that were rejected this week marked the most failed ballots ever cast for the speakership in 1859 during the turbulent years preceding the Civil war.
In 2015, McCarthy’s final bid to be speaker fell short of the right-wing opposition. After a conflict with right-wing colleagues, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Paul Ryan left their positions.
McCarthy has the power to stop Biden from advancing his legislative agenda and force Republican priority votes on the economy, energy, and immigration. He can also move ahead with his investigations into Biden and his family.
McCarthy, despite the concessions he made to his successor Nancy Pelosi, will have a much smaller power base than McCarthy. He will have a hard time negotiating with Democrats in Washington.
Hardliners will have extraordinary leverage if they can allow one member to vote for the speaker’s removal.
This agreement will cap the spending in fiscal 2019 at last year’s level. It would also reduce inflation by taking into consideration population growth.
This could be met with resistance by centrist Republicans and those who push for more military funding. It is especially important considering that the United States has spent billions to aid Ukraine in resisting a Russian invasion.
Brian Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican said that he wasn’t worried about the House being run by hardliners.
He said to reporters, “It is aspirational.” We still have our voter cards.