USA – When compromise becomes treason

In 1856, it took Nathaniel Banks two months and 133 ballots. Only then was the 39-year-old abolitionist from Massachusetts, who had to assert himself against numerous pro-slavery candidates, confirmed as speaker of the US House of Representatives.

It probably won’t take as long as it did in 1856 when the members of the first chamber of the US Congress will elect a new chairman from among themselves this Tuesday after the inaugural session. For Kevin McCarthy, who has thrown everything into the balance in recent weeks to succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi in what is formally the third-highest political office in the USA, it will nonetheless be a gauntlet run. Because McCarthy’s Republicans, after the red wave they had hoped for failed to materialize at the midterm elections, only have a narrow majority of four votes in the 435-seat House of Representatives – and an influential group of party friends has vowed under no circumstances to vote for the 57- year-old MP from California.

In order to gain support in his own party, McCarthy, who is said to be able to adapt his opinion quickly and flexibly to the circumstances, has already practiced political shoulders with conspiracy theorists and election deniers in recent weeks. At the weekend, the longtime leader of the Republican faction took a further step towards his opponents, who are mainly located on the far right of the party. McCarthy assured the members of the so-called Freedom Caucus around Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz more influence in various committees and the easier deselection of the speaker they demanded. However, he was unable to convince his opponents. According to the news channel CNN, Gaetz declared shortly after the compromise offer was made public that he still did not want to vote for the Californian. This means that it cannot be ruled out that there will not be just one ballot on Tuesday. Many Congressmen are already anticipating that the day the new House of Representatives meets will be marked by tactical manoeuvres, frantic exchanges in the aisles and possibly the search for new compromise candidates.

“Only interested in the show”

But even if McCarthy should succeed in uniting his party in the election for speaker, the bitter struggle of the past few weeks should be a glimpse of what will probably be part of everyday political life in the USA in the next two years. Despite the fact that many of the candidates protected by Donald Trump did not make it into the House of Representatives at the midterm elections, the weight within the Republican Party has shifted even more towards the ultra-right wing, which is still fighting with skin and Haaren has committed himself to the “Make America Great Again” credo of the former US President and sees any compromise as a betrayal of his own cause.

“There are now a lot more legislators who are all about the political show and have absolutely no interest in real government work,” said outgoing Democratic congressman John Yarmuth, who has chaired the budget committee for the past several years “New York Times”. “The next two years will be extremely painful for the country.”

Since the Republicans will probably only be able to pass a few bills of their own due to the Democratic majority in the Senate, many in Washington expect that the right-wing hardliners will primarily aim to make life for President Joe Biden as difficult as possible. And it’s not just about setting up investigative committees into Biden’s son Hunter’s Ukraine deals or funding important policy projects. McCarthy has also indicated that he will not shy away from using the debt ceiling negotiations that are regularly required as political leverage. The temporary suspension of government business, the so-called shutdown, could then go from being an exception to becoming a constant companion over the next two years.

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