What is happening in US House of Representatives - will Kevin McCarthy be the new speaker?

Trump-backed Republican representative Kevin McCarthy has failed to gain the necessary votes so far to secure his position as US House of Representatives Speaker, leading to one of the longest voting processes in recent memory

Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected US House speaker in a historic post-midnight 15th ballot early on Saturday, overcoming holdouts from his own ranks.

It was the end to a chaotic week that tested the new GOP majority’s ability to govern. After four days of gruelling ballots, McCarthy flipped more than a dozen conservative holdouts to become supporters, including the chairman of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus, leaving him just a few shy of seizing the gavel for the new Congress.

As the House resumed for the late night session McCarthy had been on the cusp of victory in the 14th round but he fell one vote short. He strode to the back of the chamber to confront Matt Gaetz, sitting with Lauren Boebert and other holdouts. Fingers were pointed, words exchanged and violence apparently just averted.

At one point, Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama started to charge toward Gaetz before another Republican, Richard Hudson, physically pulled him back. “Stay civil!” someone shouted.

Republicans quickly moved to adjourn, but then McCarthy rushed forward to switch his vote to remain in session as colleagues chanted “One more time!” The few Republican holdouts began voting present as well, dropping the tally he needed to finally seize the gavel in what was heading toward a dramatic finish on the fourth long day of a gruelling standoff that has shown the strengths and fragility of American democracy.

McCarthy had declared to reporters earlier in the day that he believed “we’ll have the votes to finish this once and for all”. The day’s stunning turn of events came after McCarthy agreed to many of the detractors’ demands – including the reinstatement of a longstanding House rule that would allow any single member to call a vote to oust him from office.

But why did the stalemate happen? NationalWorld spoke to Dr Colin Provost from University College London (UCL) about the current situation and the implications it might have for the House and the Republicans.

Why did the House of Representatives take to long to pick a speaker?

Traditionally, after a midterm election when a new Congress is chosen by the voting public, a new speaker of the house must be chosen too. Dr Provost explained that McCarthy has been one of the Republican names rising up in the rank over the past few years, saying: “It looks like Kevin McCarthy was was next in line to pay his dues and climb the ranks and it was it was his turn.”

Kevin McCarthy has lost his 12th round of voting in his bid to secure the position of House Speaker. (Credit: Getty Images)

However, his plans to lead the House have been scuppered by a group of around 20 “diehard holdouts” within the Republican Party, who represent a “more extreme part” of the cohort, wiht origins in the Tea Party. Amongst this group includes names such as the controversial Colorado representative Lauren Boebart.

Dr Provost said: “The Tea Party members of Congress believe that the members of Congress should look more closely at ordinary fundamental spending bills. And they should question them more closely and that we need to be more vigilant about spending and so they have kind of enacted these Republican purity tests about spending.

“They're they're not satisfied with Kevin McCarthy, and he's conceding quite a bit in order to get their support.”

One of the major concerns with this ongoing clash of ideals is that without a Speaker in place, the House cannot sit and therefore business cannot resume.

The House has been in disarray as voting for the Speaker continues into the thirteenth round. (Credit: Getty images)

Is Trump’s influence on the Republican Party waning?

One of the most notable factors of McCarthy’s bid for speaker is that he has the backing of former President Donald Trump. Trump had lightly endorsed the representative, urging Republicans on social media to “take the victory” and vote for McCarthy to end the long voting process.

While once upon a time, Trump’s endosrement would have been enough to unite the Republicans against one cause, the former president is having trouble keeping some of those who were his most staunch allies onboard. It comes after a muted response to his bid to run once again for president in the 2024 election and a distancing from Trump amid the January 6 committee findings. Many Republicans are said to be preferring more paletable options such as Florida governor Ron DeSantis for the Republican nominee for 2024.

Dr Provost said: “They don't appear to be listening to him [Trump]. That may be another sign of his own diminished influence on the party, because he certainly can't get these people to do what they don't want to do.”