Since the US House of Representatives convened on Tuesday, chaos has reigned, but one thing has remained constant: Kevin McCarthy has lost.
Through 11 votes in three calendar days, for a total of nearly 18 hours, the California Republican was trapped in the purgatory of defeat. He wasn’t any closer to victory, but he wasn’t any closer to withdrawing his speaker offer either; A hard-line faction of 20 lawmakers was determined to keep him out of the talks, but progress in the talks — with breakthroughs seemingly imminent — allowed McCarthy to continue to contend. nominate.
Republicans realized that McCarthy couldn’t keep losing. But, on Thursday night, it looked like he was at least starting to lose. with purpose. After hours of private bargaining, the GOP leadership team is said to have negotiated the outlines of an agreement with the holding faction — or at least a faction of it.
The deal would likely represent a near-total surrender to the demands of McCarthy’s dissidents. It could include not only giving a small hard-line bloc the power to force a speaker to be overthrown at any time, but also installing conservative Freedom Caucus members on influential committees. and give them unprecedented influence over the most essential tasks of Congress.
Republicans expect such a deal, if accepted, would move about 10 of the 20 holdings. Even then, however, McCarthy will be far from coming out of the woods. He would still have to cut the remaining detractors in half. Those 10 Republicans seem essentially intractable and there doesn’t seem to be a real plan for how to get them.
McCarthy’s team simply focused on Thursday production some momentum in their direction, in the face of the danger of a stalemate simply ending McCarthy’s hopes of a speaker role this week. And so, McCarthy put all of his speaker dreams into a promising contract.
The deal’s main brokers were Mom leaving the Capitol on Thursday night. But it is clear that those involved see these talks as just the beginning of a long process to elect a Speaker.
“This is round one,” Representative Ralph Norman (R-SC), one of the dissidents, told reporters. “That’s on paper, which is a good thing.”
McCarthy himself is even more optimistic. “That’s not how you start,” he say Thursday night, “that’s how you end up.”
But McCarthy’s big problem now is math. To win, he needs to convert all but four of the 21 lawmakers currently opposing his bid.
“I think it brings some of them closer together,” said Representative Tim Burchett (R-TN). “We still have a few left, though.”
McCarthy’s tortured balancing act doesn’t stop there. If he satisfies his far-right, he must also keep about 200 other members of the House Republican convention from agreeing to any deal he reaches. Several key moderates have warned that if McCarthy goes too far, their votes will not be secured.
Privately, some Republicans are realistic that they may have to accept whatever McCarthy does, if only to move on.
Asked if the conference would accept any deal, Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) declined, noting that members would have the power to directly approve or reject any deal. vote on the upcoming package of rules — or on McCarthy herself.
“I think the feeling is that we want to see what the deal is,” said Fleischmann, a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee. “We want to continue to direct people to Kevin McCarthy as a speaker.”
But even before this week, McCarthy had shown a willingness to be widely acknowledged on a number of fronts. He agreed to give up so much power that many lawmakers and aides simply concluded that he could do nothing to sway the hard-line votes. With McCarthy in a bind, it seems unlikely these lawmakers will rest until they remove him from the controversy.
The fact that an agreement was reached on Thursday, after so many rounds of failed votes and bitter rhetoric among members and various GOP camps, is welcome news — but welcomed with a sense of exasperation.
“It’s frustrating because it’s something that’s actually really easy to hash out,” said Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). Crenshaw said the offer for a deal came from hardliners, not from leadership, but also said many of the hardliners “really don’t know” what they want. .
“There are still some people – you know, we’ll see who they end up being, it’s hard for us to know who they are – but they just want to burn down the House. They think it’s a good idea,” Crenshaw told reporters.
For the third night in a row, House Republicans paused without a Speaker. They will convene again at noon on Friday.
Besides the political turmoil, McCarthy’s punishment is having broader consequences for the functioning of the House. With no speakers, unofficial members sworn in, and no members sworn in, committees really don’t exist.
That means committees can’t hire more staff or do anything, including pay employees.
For Republicans, the inability to hire is a particularly pressing issue. Since they just won a majority in the House, each committee needs to hire dozens of new GOP staffers.
Given that their committees will be the vehicle for their aggressive plans to conduct surveillance of the Biden administration, the GOP’s internal battle is having the ironic effect of thwarting the only political objective that can be achieved. attainable seems to have united them.
Representative Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, joked to The Daily Beast that he hopes Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and James Comer (R-ND) KY) will line up to be the chair of the Judiciary and Oversight committees—“date their subpoenas in pencil.”
“Really, the frustrating part for me is, some of these things are going to be incredibly difficult and time consuming to do,” says Armstrong. “And every day we miss, we miss a day.”
Additionally, both the Democratic and Republican member offices have gone through a day of confusion and frustration over exactly what they are entitled to do while the House remains disorganized and members take no oath. take office.
There has been particular ambiguity when it comes to offices’ ability to handle voter requests from federal government agencies. Helping voters navigate the federal bureaucracy—from the Internal Revenue Service and the Veterans Affairs Administration to getting a passport if they get stuck—is the primary responsibility of congressional offices.
On Thursday morning, Democratic leadership sent an email notice to member offices, obtained by The Daily Beast, advising that they were unable to process personal work “at this time because of The member has not been sworn in.”
Less than an hour later, a Democrat from the House Administrative Committee emailed all of the offices to clarify that they could, in fact, handle voter requests. “Disinformation,” the staff member said, “is the result of the ongoing chaos caused by House Republicans failing to elect a Speaker. Our offices should continue to operate For the People.”
But some lawmakers seem to confirm that they can’t work with federal agencies right now. “Congressional offices like mine cannot help our voters with social work requests while we wait for the oath of office,” Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) tweeted. “The small minority obstructing speaker elections is having real consequences for Americans.”
However, some offices were unable to confirm to The Daily Beast whether any of their cover job requests had been denied.