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McCarthy loses 11th US House Speaker vote

Hardline Republicans in the US House of Representatives have rejected Kevin McCarthy’s leadership bid for an 11th time even after he offered to reduce his own authority.

Thursday’s historic vote sends the chamber deeper into paralysis and raises questions about the party’s ability to wield power.

With 11 failed attempts to win the job of House Speaker since Tuesday (local time), it is not apparent that McCarthy has any path to nail down the majority needed to win the job.

In an 11th round of voting on Thursday, the holdouts quickly amassed enough votes to deny Mr McCarthy the job again before the House voted to adjourn until midday Friday.

With its inability to choose a leader, the 435-seat House has been rendered impotent – unable even to formally swear in newly elected members let alone hold hearings, consider legislation or scrutinise Democratic President Joe Biden and his administration.

Republicans won a slim 222-212 majority House majority in the November midterm elections, meaning Mr McCarthy cannot afford to lose the support of more than four Republicans as Democrats united around their own candidate.

Not since 1923 had the House failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot. That year, it took nine rounds of voting – a mark matched on Thursday.

Mr McCarthy, a congressman from California who had served as the top House Republican since 2019 and was backed by former president Donald Trump for the post, offered the holdouts concessions that would weaken the Speaker’s role, which political allies warned would make the job even harder.

That failed to quell the revolt.

In two rounds of voting on Thursday, Mr McCarthy won the support of 201 Republicans, short of the 218 votes needed to succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.

Twenty Republicans voted for other candidates, including Mr Trump, and a 21st declined to back any candidate.

Should a 10th vote be needed, the House would tie a record that has stood since 1859 in the turbulent years preceding the US Civil War that ended slavery.

Mr McCarthy’s opponents remained unyielding, saying that they did not trust him to stick to the scorched-earth tactics they wanted to use against Mr Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“This ends in one of two ways: Either Kevin McCarthy withdraws from the race or we construct a straitjacket that he is unwilling to evade,” said Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, who voted for Mr Trump for Speaker.

As Speaker, Mr McCarthy would hold a post that normally shapes the chamber’s agenda and is second in the line of succession to the presidency behind Vice President Kamala Harris.

He would be empowered to frustrate Mr Biden’s legislative agenda and launch investigations into the President’s family and administration in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.

More than 200 Republicans have backed Mr McCarthy in each of the votes this week, with less than 10 per cent of lawmakers in the party against him.

“I’m very worried about it and I’m on the intelligence committee,” said Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a McCarthy supporter who said that he was unable to participate in classified briefings until a speaker was chosen and he was sworn in.

-AAP

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