- 20 Republican US lawmakers block the election of their party colleague Kevin McCarthy as the new speaker of the US House of Representatives.
- Nineteen lawmakers from the group are part of the Freedom Caucus, an ultra-right coalition within the Republican faction.
- The outcome of the election thriller is still completely open.
For the first time in 100 years, more than one ballot must decide on the new “speaker” in the election for the speaker of the US House of Representatives. Kevin McCarthy didn’t make it after six ballotswhich required 218 votes to collect, even though his Republicans command a majority of 222 votes.
Despite some concessions to his critics, a bloc of 20 parliamentarians has formed and continues to refuse to support the 57-year-old from California. Who are the rebels and what are their goals?
Matt Gaetz (Florida)
The rhetorically gifted congressman and Trump henchman Florida has never made a secret of his dislike for McCarthy. For Gaetz, 40, the longtime string puller is a “boat for lobbyists and interest groups”. Which should mean nothing other than: corrupt.
“If you want to drain the swamp, you can’t make the biggest alligator the boss of the exercise,” Gaetz said recently about McCarthy. In his eyes, he is part of the hated establishment. Gaetz belongs to the “Never Kevin” group within the 20 rebels, he would never vote for him. Others are less anti.
Not only does Gaetz have a polished speech, he also has a talent for demagogy. That’s what he called Antifa groups in the USA as terrorists to hunt down, he accused leftists of planning “cultural genocide.” During a debate on the Corona measures, he appeared in parliament with a gas mask. The fact that he called the 2020 US presidential election a “fraud” is almost the least of the problems. He describes himself as a “libertarian populist”, others call the former lawyer “ultra-right”.
Lauren Boebert (Colorado)
The gun lover from the state of Colorado is one of the most controversial members of the US House of Representatives. Like Matt Gaetz, she is also part of the “Never Kevin” group. Even a conversation with ex-president Donald Trumpwho suggested that the rebels vote for McCarthy after all, could not change their minds.
Her “favourite president” should instead speak to McCarthy and tell him, “Sir, you don’t have the votes and it’s time to resign,” she said in parliament. Boebert got a little applause and lots of boos for that. The 36-year-old is hardly inferior to Gaetz in her radical views.
The gun enthusiast likes to carry her pistol openly in the holster, as permitted by some state laws. A video in which they demonstratively walked around the grounds of the Capitol with a loaded gun in Washington ran, caused massive criticism. The owner of Shooter’s Grill issued a Christmas card showing her and her children armed.
Boebert rejects corona masks and same-sex marriage. She is considered one of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters and denies the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
Chip Roy (Texas)
The bearded MP and former investment banker from Texas (50) caused a huge surprise when, before the fourth round of voting, he proposed the previously relatively unknown representative Byron Donalds from Florida as speaker of the House of Representatives. The bald man received a standing ovation from both factions for his remark that the nomination of Donalds and Hakeem Jeffries for the Democrats was the first time in US history that two African-Americans had been nominated for the post.
“This country needs leadership, not this city (Washington – Anm. d. Red.) reflects, which is totally broken”, Roy justified his nomination. There was no applause with a few exceptions.
What does Roy want? Concessions such as a debt freeze, a serious discussion about billions in aid for Ukraine and a strengthening of the rights of MPs. For example, a ban on several legislative packages, some of which have nothing to do with each other, having to vote at the same time. And more time to read draft laws.
Roy is still considered a more moderate voice among the dissenters. But even he is not free from controversy. On Fox News’ Tucker Carlson talk show, he described the US government’s anti-corona measures as “crimes against humanity.” These would have to be fought with more energy than Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Byron Donalds (Florida)
Donalds’ nomination as “speaker of the house” came as a huge surprise. Even for those familiar with US politics, the strictly religious African American from Florida (44) has so far been considered a blank slate. He once described himself during the campaign as “Trump-supporting, gun-loving, freedom-loving, pro-life (ie anti-abortion – editor’s note),politically incorrect black people”.
Donalds is also in favor of strengthening the rights of MPs. Too much had happened on demand in Washington, he told CNN. This is “not good for the American people”. Donalds does not categorically rule out Kevin McCarthy being elected.
In the first two ballots he voted for McCarthy, then once for Jim Jordan from the Freedom Caucus and finally three times for himself. Because of the majorities in his party, it is impossible for him to actually become speaker.
Paul Gosar (Arizona)
Trump loyalist Gosar is one of his party’s biggest election deniers. He is convinced that the 2020 election victory was stolen from Donald Trump. Otherwise, the 64-year-old hardly avoids a blunder.
He is considered a fan of conspiracy theories and is said to have connections to right-wing extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and Holocaust deniers. In the past, Gosar has expressed anti-Semitism about investor and philanthropist George Soros.
One of the low points of his career: As the first member of parliament since 2010, he was given a vote of no confidence in the US House of Representatives in 2021 and was relieved of his committee duties. Gosar had posted a video on social media in which he, as an anime character, killed a character with the face of left-wing Democrat MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Who are the other deviants?
The other Republican rebels who have all voted for Byron Donalds in the last three ballots are almost unknown:
- Andy Biggs (Arizona)
- Dan Bishop (North Carolina)
- Josh Brecheen (Oklahoma)
- Michael Cloud (Texas)
- Andrew Clyde (Georgia)
- Eli Crane (Arizona)
- Bob Good (Virgina)
- Andy Harris (Maryland)
- Anna Paulina Luna (Florida)
- Mary Miller (Illinois)
- Ralph Norman (South Carolina)
- Andy Ogles (Tennessee)
- Scott Perry (Pennsylvania)
- Matt Rosendale (Montana)
- Keith Self (Texas)
Indiana Rep. Victoria Spartz voted “present” in the last three ballots, which is equivalent to one abstention. Previously, she had supported McCarthy.
What happens now?
Kevin McCarthy basically only has two options. Either he can convince the majority of dissenters to vote for him after all. Which he would have to pay dearly for, among other things, with concessions such as the appointments to important committees.
The problem: He can only afford to lose four votes. Or he negotiates a deal with the Democrats, to whom he would also have to make concessions in order for part of the opposition to support him.
Republicans may also have to field a new candidate because McCarthy has already lost too much authority. Names circulating include Steve Scalise, Brian Fitzpatrick and Mike Gallagher. On Thursday evening, German time, the election thriller could go into its seventh round. The exit is completely open.
- fr.de: “Republicans and Democrats are working on a secret deal for the House of Representatives”
- tagesschau.de: “Who are the deviants?”
- cnn.com: “McCarthy proposes key concessions after House adjourns for second day without electing a speaker”
- cnn.com: Here are the 20 House Republicans who voted against McCarthy for speaker on the third ballot
- politico.com: “A portrait of the ‘Never Kevin’ crew”
- nypost.com: “Rep. Lauren Boebert releases video of herself walking around DC with gun”