(Washington) This had not happened in 100 years: the elected members of the American House of Representatives closed their session on Tuesday without being able to elect a president, strong tensions in the Republican ranks plunging Congress into uncertainty.
Big favorite to replace Nancy Pelosi, the 50-year-old Kevin McCarthy had failed after three successive votes to calm the revolt emanating from a group of Trumpists judging the chosen one too moderate. The elected officials agreed to suspend their votes until Wednesday morning – the time to negotiate behind the scenes.
The Republicans, who seized the majority in the lower house in the November elections, had promised to use their new counter-power by opening a series of investigations into US President Joe Biden.
But the launch of such hostilities is paralyzed by these internal quarrels: the elected members of the House of Representatives cannot officially take the oath, and therefore open any investigation, as long as a president has not been appointed.
The election of the “speaker”, the third most important figure in American politics after the president and the vice-president, requires a majority of 218 votes. A threshold that Kevin McCarthy could not reach, twenty elected Trumpists having decided to play the spoilsport.
“We should not take it personally, but the future of our country depends on it,” assured Chip Roy, a turbulent elected representative from Texas.
The candidacy of Mr. McCarthy is however widely supported within his party: the announcement of his nomination Tuesday in the hemicycle was received by a great standing ovation in the Republican ranks.
At the start of the third round, some annoyance was beginning to be felt, with the more moderate Republicans urging their colleagues to line up around Kevin McCarthy. “We came here to get things done,” Republican group leader Steve Scalise pleaded, to which Democrats laughed.
Throughout this procedure, Joe Biden’s party has since united around the candidacy of Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, regularly applauding the New York elected official to the sounds of “Hakeem, Hakeem, Hakeem!” “.
But the chosen one does not have enough votes to access the perch either.
The election of a President of the House of Representatives could be a matter of a few hours… or of several weeks: in 1856, the elected members of Congress only agreed after two months and 133 votes.
Kevin McCarthy seems to want to give pledges to this conservative fringe to prevent history from stuttering: in 2015, he had already narrowly failed to become Speaker of the House of Representatives in the face of a revolt from the right wing of the party.
But he can’t afford to go overboard and alienate moderate Republicans.
Although its room for maneuver is reduced, it currently has no credible competitor. Only the name of Ohio elected official Jim Jordan circulates as a possible alternative, without his chances seeming serious.
Boon for Biden?
With Republicans in the majority in the House, Joe Biden and the Democrats won’t be able to push through big new projects.
But with a Senate in the hands of the Democrats, neither will their rivals.
Will they entrench themselves in a systematic opposition? This would require them to come together, while some of their elected officials – as during the vote on the budget before Christmas – voted with the Democrats.
The election of the “speaker” therefore also serves to measure their capacity to cause harm to the president.
Facing a hostile House could prove to be a political boon for Joe Biden, if he confirms his intention to run again in 2024 – a decision he is due to announce earlier this year.
The president was also careful not to comment on the Republican dissensions, his spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre assuring that the Democratic leader would not “meddle in this process”.
In the event of legislative paralysis, he will undoubtedly blame the blocking on weakened Republicans, hoping to turn the situation to his advantage.