Trump urges Republicans to break stalemate, elect Kevin McCarthy
Former President Donald Trump urged fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives on Wednesday to elect his ally Kevin McCarthy to lead the chamber, wading into a bruising standoff that has raised questions about the party’s ability to advance its agenda in Washington.
McCarthy, a congressman from California who has served as the top House Republican since 2019, weathered three failed votes for House speaker on Tuesday. About 20 hardliners on the party’s right flank – representing less than 10% of House Republicans – voted against him. The last time the House failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot was 1923.
“It’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN,” Trump wrote on his social media site Truth Social on Wednesday morning. A second day of voting was expected to get underway when the House meets at noon (1700 GMT) on Wednesday.
Trump had previously urged Republicans to back McCarthy. It was unclear whether his message would sway the holdouts who have blocked McCarthy’s path to replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi in a powerful post second in line of succession to the presidency.
Trump remains an influential figure among Republicans and is the only announced candidate for the 2024 presidential election. Republicans secured a slim majority in the House – 222-212 – in the November midterm elections. Some in the party have blamed Trump for Republicans failing to win more House seats.
The weaker-than-expected performance in the midterm elections contributed to the House leadership crisis by leaving McCarthy dependent upon the support of a small group of hardliners in his party. That group wants greater control over leadership and more influence over the party’s approach to spending and debt.
Multiple Republican McCarthy opponents maintained their position even after Trump’s latest missive.
Representative Matt Gaetz told Fox News that the former president’s position was “sad,” while Scott Perry, chairman of the hardline Freedom Caucus, said on Twitter that he still opposed McCarthy.
Republican control of the House could empower the party to frustrate Democratic President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. But the leadership standoff raised questions about whether the House will be able to meet essential obligations such as funding government operations, let alone advance other policy priorities ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
“This is not a good look,” Biden said of the House leadership struggle, speaking to reporters at the White House. “It’s not a good thing. This is the United States of America, and I hope they get their act together.”
McCarthy, late on Tuesday, vowed to stay in the race and said no other Republican was in a position to win.
Trump paired his endorsement of McCarthy with a racist insult of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s wife. McConnell was due to appear on Wednesday with Biden in Kentucky to highlight infrastructure investments in a bipartisan bill passed in 2021.
The House hardliners have blasted such legislative compromises, raising fears about the ability of Congress to prevent default when the federal government approaches its debt ceiling later this year.
McCarthy’s opponents on Tuesday selected conservative Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio as their candidate. Jordan backs McCarthy and has not put himself forward in the speaker’s race. Incoming House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana also was seen as a possible alternative for speaker.
Tuesday’s session, which involved about five hours of failed votes, made Republicans a target of ridicule by Democrats. McCarthy drew only 202 votes on the final ballot before the House adjourned.
“It’s a sad day for the House of Representatives as an institution, a sad day for democracy. It’s a sad day for the American people,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters on Tuesday after getting all 212 Democratic votes on all three ballots, besting McCarthy’s totals.
Most votes are needed to determine a speaker, not a plurality.
The right-wing rebellion also ratcheted up frustrations among other Republicans, who said McCarthy’s opponents were stalling plans to investigate Biden and his administration and advance legislative priorities on immigration, energy, and other matters.
“Exasperation is growing among members because they have had a hard time figuring out exactly what the holdouts want,” Republican Representative Dusty Johnson told reporters.
Some Republicans said continued obstruction could lead them to work with Democrats to elect a moderate Republican as speaker. Jeffries told reporters that Republicans had not approached Democrats about supporting a consensus candidate to end the stalemate and that Democrats were not going to solve Republicans’ problem for them.
If elected, McCarthy would become second in presidential succession after Vice President Kamala Harris.