- BBC News World
Sewing and singing, child’s play, a walk in the country: any of these phrases commonly used to refer to something that is very easy should have served to describe what the Republican Party had to do this week to choose from its ranks the next speaker of the US House of Representatives
The results of the November 2022 legislative elections gave the Republicans a small but clear majority in this legislative body, in which they hold 222 seats, which means that they had four more votes than necessary to guarantee the 218 required to elect to its new president.
They also had a natural candidate for the position: Kevin McCarthywho since 2019 had been leader of the conservative minority in the Lower House.
Despite this, after six votes carried out between Tuesday and Wednesday, McCarthy I didn’t get the votes necessary to occupy one of the most powerful positions in American politics that, in addition, would make him the second person in the line of presidential succession, behind Vice President Kamala Harris.
It is the first time since 1923 that the party with the majority in the House of Representatives fails to elect its president on the first day of voting.
Behind this failure there is a rebellion of about twenty congressmen republicans who resist voting for McCarthy.
Members of the “Freedom Caucus”
Nearly all of the Republican congressmen who resisted voting for McCarthy are members of the Freedom Caucus, a group of hardline conservative lawmakers that was responsible for then-President Donald Trump’s first major political defeat in March 2017.
Then, with their votes they blocked the first real chance in seven years to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Actbetter known as Obamacare, abhorred by conservatives.
These congressmen questioned that the new law did not go far enough because it did not totally eliminate Obamacare, by keeping some subsidies in place and not eliminating the requirement made to insurers to comply with a series of essential medical coverage.
His radicalism, however, only served to keep Obamacare five years later.
Created in 2015, the Freedom Caucus is considered the most right-wing bloc within the Republican Party credited with having played a decisive role in forcing the resignation of John Boehner as Speaker of the House of Representatives that year.
In accordance with The New York Times19 of the 20 Republican representatives who did not vote for McCarthy belong to that radical group or received their support ahead of the 2022 elections.
At the same time, the two Republican congressmen who were nominated as McCarthy’s alternatives on Tuesday (Jim Jordan of Ohio) and Wednesday (Byron Donalds of Florida) are members of the Freedom Caucus, although paradoxically Jordan – who is a founding member of the group – has voted for McCarthy.
The 20 Republicans who voted for Jordan or Donalds are: Andy Biggs (Arizona); Lauren Boebert (Colorado); Josh Brecheen (Oklahoma); Michael Cloud (Texas); Eli Crane (Arizona); Andrew Clyde (Georgia); Byron Donalds (Florida); Matt Gaetz (Florida); Bob Good (Va.); Paul Gosar (Arizona); Andy Harris (Maryland); Anna Paulina Luna (Florida); Mary Miller (Ill.); Ralph Norman (South Carolina); Andy Ogles (Tennessee); Scott Perry (Pennsylvania); Matt Rosendale (Montana); Dan Bishop (North Carolina); Chip Roy (Texas) and Keith Self (Texas).
Of these, Self is the only one who does not have a clear link to the Freedom Caucus.
Rejection of Biden’s election
Another feature they have in common is that most of them have questioned the results of the 2020 presidential electionin which he was the winner Joe Biden.
12 of the 20 congressmen have explicitly pointed out these elections as stolen or fraudulent not only during the weeks or months that followed the contest, but they have maintained that position over time, something that distinguishes them from most of the representatives republicans.
Among these 20 parliamentarians, there are 5 who were elected for the first time last November and 15 are repeating their seat. Almost all (14) of the latter group voted on January 6, 2021 in favor of ignoring the results of the electoral colleges to try to avoid certification of Biden’s electoral victory.
One last characteristic they share is the fact that 17 of them had Trump’s endorsement during the 2022 election campaign.
This, however, does not necessarily mean that they are always faithful to the political line set by the former Republican president, as was made clear this Wednesday when, despite an express appeal by Trump to vote in favor of McCarthy, these congressmen they maintained their refusal to support him during, at least, the three votes this Wednesday.
In fact, Congresswoman Lauren Boebert told the House explicitly that Trump had talked to her and others to tell them to stop what they were doing, but that she thought the former president should instead call McCarthy to tell him that it is “time to retire”.
Andy Biggs, another representative of this group, also made reference to the former Republican president’s request: “We love Trump, but…we don’t think [McCarthy] be the person”said.
What do they seek?
The refusal of the 20 Republican congressmen to vote for McCarthy arises not only from a rejection against him, but also responds to a specific political agenda.
These representatives are strong critics of institutions such as the federal government. His ideas include establishing a balanced federal budget, one that does not incur deficit spending; the elimination of income tax and instead establish only a consumption tax; and the fortification of the border with Mexico.
Regarding the functioning of Congress, they advocate reforming its procedures to give more influence to parliamentarians and reduce power to figures such as the president of the Chamber, who exercises great control over its operation, as well as over the legislative agenda.
The inability of the Republicans to choose a president of Congress from among their own ranks was criticized by President Biden, who on Wednesday called it an “embarrassing” episode for the United States.
But it has also been criticized from within the Republican ranks. So, for example, Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace (South Carolina) accused the Freedom Caucus of having taken the conservative agenda “hostage”.
“This is not about politics. This is not about advancing our conservative agenda. This is about ego and fundraising and a bunch of other crap,” he said.
In any case, and regardless of when this impasse is resolved, it is likely that whoever assumes the presidency of Congress for the next two years will have an extremely difficult task ahead of them to advance work in a parliament no longer only marked by deep polarization between Democrats and Republicans, but now also because of the manifest divisions between the latter.
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