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House GOP Conference selects Kevin McCarthy for Speakership

Rep. Biggs, a former chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, had launched a late challenge to McCarthy on Monday

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking at a campaign event in Pennsylvania in October, 2022 (Screenshot/YouTube

WASHINGTON – In a closed-door conference meeting on Tuesday House Republicans voted 188 to 31 to select House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as their choice to be the next Speaker of the House. McCarthy easily beat Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) in the secret ballot.

Biggs, a former chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, had launched a late challenge to McCarthy on Monday night, announcing on far-right leaning American conservative media outlet Newsmax that he would be an alternative in today’s House GOP caucus election.

“We have a new paradigm here, and I think the country wants a different direction from the House of Representatives,” Biggs told Newsmax. 

Biggs also appeared on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast Tuesday telling Bannon that there are a “significant number of hard no’s” for McCarthy in the House GOP.

The Hill reported that Tuesday’s vote comes as the final breakdown of House control remains unknown, with 14 House races undecided and election projections putting Republicans just one vote shy of securing the majority. The exact size of the slimmer-than-expected majority will have major implications for the rest of McCarthy’s path to the gavel.

The secret-ballot House Republican Conference vote is just the first step for McCarthy to ascend to the Speakership. He must win a majority in a public vote on the House floor — at least 218 votes, assuming a fully sworn-in House — on the first day of the next Congress on Jan. 3.

Congress

FBI probes Santos GoFundMe scheme & separate SEC complaint

Republican Rep. George Santos faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations he ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016

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Republican Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) being trailed by reporters Tuesday, January 31, 2023 (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) faces yet another law enforcement probe, this time over allegations that the congressman ran a GoFundMe scam in 2016 by crowdsourcing for a U.S. Navy Veteran and his cancer-stricken service dog before absconding with the money.

POLITICO reported on Wednesday that the veteran, Richard Osthoff, furbished text messages to FBI agents who were working on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, which is reportedly conducting a parallel investigation into Santos’s campaign finances.

The news comes a day after Santos resigned from his two committee assignments following a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Monday.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) announced on Twitter Wednesday that he filed a complaint against Santos with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) “for violating federal securities law.”

Torres wrote that his GOP colleague “illegally operated as a broker without a license, raising funds from unsuspecting investors for Harbor City Capitol, a 17 million dollar Ponzi Scheme.”

Last month, Torres and fellow New York Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman filed a U.S. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) complaint against Santos over his alleged violations of campaign finance laws. And over the weekend, the U.S. Department of Justice reportedly asked the FEC to yield to federal prosecutors – likely a sign that the campaign finance issues are the subject of a criminal probe.

Santos reportedly faces investigations by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James. He has been embroiled in controversy since his arrival to Washington following revelations that nearly every part of his biography and identity were complete fabrications.

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George Santos to step down from committee assignments

The Justice Dept asked the Federal Election Commission to yield to the federal prosecutors probing Santos’s campaign finance activity

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New York Congressman George Santos (Screen shot via YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Republican Rep. George Santos (Ny.) told House GOP colleagues on Tuesday that he will step down from his two committee assignments pending the resolution of investigations and possible law enforcement activity over his alleged financial crimes and violations of campaign finance laws.

Santos, who was appointed to the U.S. House Committees on Small Business and Science, Space, and Technology, neither of which are considered high profile, announced his recusal during a closed-door session following his meeting on Monday with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Today’s news marks the first sign that the many scandals with which Santos has been enveloped since his arrival to Washington may have fractured his relationships with and support from House Republican leadership.

Over the weekend, the Justice Department asked the Federal Election Commission to yield to the federal prosecutors probing Santos’s campaign finance activity, a likely signal that a criminal investigation is underway.

Santos is also the subject of a complaint filed to the House Ethics Committee as well as parallel investigations conducted by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The congressman has faced calls to resign, including from members of his own party, since it was revealed last month that he had fabricated virtually every part of his identity and biography.

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George Santos: Same-sex parents undermine the family unit

“They’re teaching kids don’t need a mommy and a daddy, you can can have two mommies and two daddies. That’s an attack on the family unit”

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U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) (Official U.S. House Portrait)

WASHINGTON – Two years ago, embattled gay Republican Rep. George Santos (Ny.) told the host of a conservative YouTube show that same-sex couples and parents are harmful to children and undermine the family unit.

Children who are raised by single parents or gay and lesbian couples tend to grow up “troubled,” Santos said during the hour-long interview on “Indivisible with John Stubbins.” Clips from the conversation were excerpted and shared Thursday on Twitter by Patriot Takes.

“The family unit has been under attack for decades in different ways,” Santos told Stubbins. “The flavor of the decade is same-sex couples. They’re teaching in schools that kids don’t need a mommy and a daddy, you can can have two mommies and two daddies. That’s an attack on the family unit.”

“I think that’s a little much for kids,” the congressman added.

According to the show’s YouTube page, “Indivisible” “endorses” My Pillow founder and far-right conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell and has a modest 3,690 subscribers. The video featuring Santos’s interview earned six likes and no comments.

Also on Thursday, Reuters reported claims by former acquaintances that Santos was a drag performer in his native Brazil 15 years ago. Despite the online circulation of photos appearing to show the congressman dressed in drag, Santos tweeted that the reports were untrue.

The matter earned significant media attention given Santos’s far-right positions on LGBTQ issues, consistent with comments from his interview on “Indivisible,” as well as his allyship with the most extreme anti-LGBTQ members of the House GOP Caucus.

Conservative Republicans, including these lawmakers, have increasingly attacked drag events and performances, accusing hosts and participants of harming children or facilitating the sexual abuse or exploitation of minors.

Meanwhile, Santos has been buffeted by a host of other scandals, beginning with reporting last month that revealed the congressman fabricated practically everything about his life and identity.

He also faces investigations by multiple law enforcement agencies over allegations of financial malfeasance and violations of campaign finance laws.

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Speaker McCarthy stands by George Santos

McCarthy said Santos has a “long way to go to earn trust” and acknowledged the scepter of an investigation by the House Committee on Ethics

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GOP Rep. George Santos (Ny.) (Official U.S. House of Representatives portrait)

WASHINGTON – Asked whether he would urge GOP Rep. George Santos (Ny.) to resign, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters the congressman is “part of the Republican conference,” having been duly elected to represent New York’s Third Congressional District.

At the same time, McCarthy said Santos has a “long way to go to earn trust” and acknowledged the scepter of an investigation by the House Committee on Ethics pursuant to a complaint filed by Democratic New York Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman.

Reporting over the past several weeks has revealed the congressman lied about practically every element of his biography and identity, while multiple law enforcement agencies have initiated investigations into his and his campaign’s finances.

On Wednesday, more than a dozen elected Republican officials from his district and surrounding areas demanded Santos’s immediate resignation.

Nevertheless, the freshman congressman has been defiant. During his first few days in office, Santos tried to dodge Capitol Hill reporters, but more recently he has vocally and publicly dismissed calls for him to step down.

McCarthy’s comments were echoed by other Republican House leaders, like Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.), who said: “Obviously, you know, we’re finding out more, but we also recognize that he was elected by his constituents.”

House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (Ny.) said “It will play itself out,” noting that, “There have been members of Congress on the Democrat side who have faced investigations before.”

Other Republican members of the House, however – New York Reps. Nick LaLota, Nick Langworthy, Brandon Williams, Anthony D’Esposito, Marc Molinaro, and Mike Lawler, as well as South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace and Ohio Rep. Max Miller – have demanded Santos’s resignation.

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Attorney expects Santos FEC complaint will deadlock

New York Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman have filed a complaint against Santos to the House Committee on Ethics

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Rep. George Santos (R-Ny.) seated with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) (Screen shot via CSPAN)

WASHINGTON – An attorney with the group that filed a complaint to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Monday against Republican Rep. George Santos (Ny.) said the FEC is unlikely to pursue an investigation or bring any enforcement action against the congressman or his campaign.

“There are at least 3 commissioners who are ideologically opposed to enforcing campaign finance law,” Campaign Legal Center Senior Vice President and Legal Director Adav Noti told The Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday.

With a four-vote majority of the FEC’s six sitting commissioners required to open an investigation, “the working assumption has to be – for every FEC complaint, no matter how egregious – that at least 3 commissioners will block an investigation,” Noti said.

Noti previously served at the FEC in the Office of General Counsel, as associate general counsel for policy, and in the Litigation Division, where he argued cases before federal district and appellate courts as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, including the landmark 2010 case Citizens United v. FEC.

Notwithstanding what may happen at the FEC, Noti told The Blade the Santos case is unlike anything he had ever seen, in multiple respects.

Per the Campaign Legal Center’s complaint, Santos and his 2022 campaign committee, Devolder-Santos for Congress, stand accused of engaging “in a straw donor scheme to knowingly and willfully conceal the true sources of $705,000 that Santos purported to loan to his campaign; deliberately reporting false disbursement figures on FEC disclosure reports, among many other reporting violations; and illegally using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including rent on a house that Santos lived in during the campaign.”

Some of these allegations, which sometimes result in prosecutions, happen, unfortunately, “with some regularity,” Noti said. “But I cannot think of another situation where a successful candidate turns out to have fabricated his entire campaign apparatus.”

Sometimes, candidates will falsify the source of the money they received to fund their campaigns, and other times they will conceal how they spent those funds, but “I can’t think of another instance where every dollar that went into a campaign and a significant portion of the dollars that were spent by that campaign appear to be fictitious, or just made up,” Noti said.

Looking at the money that was funneled through the campaign, even if assuming that the dollar amounts that were reported were accurate, “we don’t know where it came from, and we know where almost none of it went,” Noti said.

Unfortunately, however, “Even in the highly unlikely event that the FEC does conduct an investigation or [pursue an enforcement action], it would take years,” Noti said, adding that slow-rolling the process is another means by which the commissioners can prevent the agency from enforcing the law.

Nevertheless, Santos is in potential legal jeopardy. Investigations of the congressman have reportedly been opened by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, and the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James.

On Tuesday, New York Democratic Reps. Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman filed a complaint against Santos to the House Committee on Ethics.

Noti said the Justice Department’s case would be a criminal probe into Santos’s possible violations of campaign finance laws, but otherwise the FEC has sole jurisdiction over these matters, so other legal actors are likely looking into other types of financial malfeasance by the congressman.

The FEC will typically wait for the resolution of a criminal probe initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office before proceeding with a complaint, Noti said. “If the DOJ starts investigating, they’ll tell the FEC, and then the FEC will wait for the criminal investigation to conclude.”

Either way, “I would be shocked if [Santos] were not seeking legal counsel,” Noti said, adding that he might have a difficult time finding an attorney to represent him.

Santos has been under fire for weeks after media reports revealed the congressman had lied about virtually every aspect of his life, career, and identity.

With respect to his treatment of campaign finance laws, “What he did was intentionally deprive the public of the information that voters are entitled to before they decide who to vote for,” Noti said.

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Congress

Campaign finance complaint filed against George Santos

Santos has been under fire for weeks after a series of exposés revealed the congressman has lied about virtually every aspect of his biography

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New York Congressman George Santos (Photo Credit: Santos for Congress Campaign/Facebook)

WASHINGTON – A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission Monday by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center alleges a wide scope of campaign finance law violations by openly gay freshman Congressman George Santos (R-N.Y.) and his 2022 campaign committee, Devolder-Santos for Congress.

Santos has been under fire for weeks after a series of exposés revealed the congressman has lied about virtually every aspect of his biography.

“Particularly in light of Santos’s mountain of lies about his life and qualifications for office, the commission should thoroughly investigate what appear to be equally brazen lies about how his campaign raised and spent money,” the Campaign Legal Center’s complaint alleges.

“George Santos has lied to voters about a lot of things, but while lying about your background might not be illegal, deceiving voters about your campaign’s funding and spending is a serious violation of federal law,” the group said in a statement announcing its complaint.

Specifically, per the statement, Santos and his campaign stand accused of engaging “in a straw donor scheme to knowingly and willfully conceal the true sources of $705,000 that Santos purported to loan to his campaign; deliberately reporting false disbursement figures on FEC disclosure reports, among many other reporting violations; and illegally using campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including rent on a house that Santos lived in during the campaign.”

Before he was even sworn in, Santos attracted more controversy last week by appearing to flash the “white power” hand sign from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as the chamber was voting for speaker.

Santos’ office did not return multiple requests for comment.

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)
(Altered photo of the original taken by photographer Jonathan Ernst for Reuters)
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Rep. Mark Pocan to chair Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus

The Equality Caucus will do everything in our power to defeat anti-LGBTQI+ bills and amendments proposed by extremist anti-LGBTQI+ politicians

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Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus announced Monday that gay Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) will serve as its new chair for the 118th Congress, replacing outgoing chair Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will continue to serve as a co-chair.

The chair position “rotates every Congress between the Caucus’ openly LGBTQI+ members based on seniority,” according to a press release from the Caucus announcing Pocan’s appointment.

“We are witnessing a dangerous increase in anti-LGBTQI+ hate, legislation, and violence that we must forcibly push back against and defeat,” said Pocan in a statement.

The Equality Caucus will do everything in our power to defeat anti-LGBTQI+ bills and amendments proposed by extremist anti-LGBTQI+ politicians this Congress, especially those targeting our transgender and nonbinary community members.”

The Equality Caucus was founded in 2008 by then-Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), now the state’s junior senator, and former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). As of the 117th Congress, there were 175 members – a 92 percent increase in membership from 2009.

The group is historically co-chaired by openly LGBTQ members of the House, with membership open to LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ members from either party.

In the last Congress, the Caucus’s Transgender Equality Task Force was chaired by Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Marie Newman (Ill.), and Jennifer Wexton (Va.).

“With the support of our 175 members, we were able to celebrate many accomplishments in our pursuit towards achieving full equality for LGBTQI+ people, including House passage of the Equality Act and the Global Respect Act, increased funding for LGBTQI+ priorities at home and abroad, and, most recently, the President signing the Respect for Marriage Act into law,” said Cicilline in a statement.

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McCarthy elected Speaker (finally) after 4th day and the 15th ballot

“Our debates will be passionate but not personal” Speaker-elect McCarthy tells Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries as he accepts gavel

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U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News Live)

WASHINGTON – In the final vote tally shortly after midnight Saturday, January 7, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California was elected Speaker with 216 votes followed by Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries with 211 and 6 lawmakers voting present, in the 15th and final ballot.

He was sworn in at 1:40 AM Eastern and in turn Speaker McCarthy then swore in the assembled members of the 118th Congress en masse. Afterwards the Democratic and Republican conferences appointed their leadership roles and House officers including the Clerk of the House and the House Sergeant-at-Arms who were also sworn in.

The House adjourned at 1:54 am Saturday and is set to reconvene on Monday, January 9 at 5 pm Eastern.

McCarthy was initially stymied again in his quest to be Speaker Friday evening as the 14th floor vote was held in the chamber and it became apparent he had once again not garnered the requisite votes needed.

McCarthy confronts Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz (Screenshot/CSPAN)

After two key Republican holdouts voted present to lower the tally McCarthy would need to get the gavel, a visibly angry McCarthy strode to the back of the chamber to confront Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz sitting with Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert and some of the other holdouts who had vocally opposed his ascending to the Speakership. Fingers were pointed, heated words were exchanged as those in the Republican conference nearby stared in disbelief.

At one point someone was heard to shout at the two lawmakers: “Stay civil!” This happening as Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers had to be physically restrained from attacking Gaetz by Rep. Hudson, R-N.C. and others.

Screenshot/CSPAN

There was a motion to adjourn, which initially had enough votes to carry, when there was an abrupt turnabout after some last minute discussions on the floor. After the motion to adjourn was defeated, the Clerk of the House, Cheryl L. Johnson, commenced the fifteenth voice roll call vote after McCarthy’s name was again put forward.

During the vote Representative Stephanie Bice (OK-05) shouted: “For the 15th and final goddamn time, Kevin McCarthy”

The final path to the Speaker’s chair occurred as Gaetz and Boebert dropped their opposition by voting present along with the others left in opposition also voting present.

McCarthy’s victory required him and his allies to make extraordinary concessions to the bloc of far-right holdouts.

These included changes to House rules that empowered the House Freedom Caucus, and a new rules package. CNN reported that package included:

  • Any member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair – this is significant because it would make it much easier than it is currently to trigger what is effectively a no confidence vote in the speaker. Conservatives pushed hard for this, while moderates are worried it will weaken McCarthy’s hand.
  • A McCarthy-aligned super PAC agreed to not play in open Republican primaries in safe seats
  • The House will hold votes on key conservative bills, including a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits and border security
  • Efforts to raise the nation’s debt ceiling must be paired with spending cuts. This could become a major issue in the future when it is time to raise the debt limit to avoid a catastrophic default because Democrats in the Senate and the White House would likely oppose demands for spending cuts
  • Move 12 appropriations bills individually. Instead of passing separate bills to fund government operations, Congress frequently passes a massive year-end spending package known as an “omnibus” that rolls everything into one bill. Conservatives rail against this, arguing that it evades oversight and allows lawmakers to stick in extraneous pet projects.
  • More Freedom Caucus representation on committees, including the powerful House Rules Committee
  • Cap discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels, which would amount to lower levels for defense and domestic programs
  • Seventy-two hours to review bills before they come to floor
  • Give members the ability to offer more amendments on the House floor
  • Create an investigative committee to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government
  • Restore the Holman rule, which can be used to reduce the salary of government officials

The White House released a statement from President Joe Biden:

“Jill and I congratulate Kevin McCarthy on his election as Speaker of the House. The American people expect their leaders to govern in a way that puts their needs above all else, and that is what we need to do now.  
 
As I said after the midterms, I am prepared to work with Republicans when I can and voters made clear that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well.  Now that the leadership of the House of Representatives has been decided it is time for that process to begin.”

It was the first time in a century that the gavel was not passed with the first ballot, paralyzing the U.S. House of Representatives as new lawmakers could not be seated and activity like committee assignments and legislation was ground to a halt.

McCarthy had faced an obstinate group of about 20 hardline GOP members, despite having won the endorsement of influential conservative media figures, former president Donald Trump, and ultraconservative members of the conference like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.).

Signs that the dam was breaking began to emerge Friday amid reporting that the Republican Leader made more concessions, such as by agreeing to a rules change that would allow for any GOP member to call for a vote to vacate the speakership at any time and for any reason.

Partly as a consequence of the conditions to which he agreed to earn their support, McCarthy’s autonomy over the gavel is expected to be compromised by the ultraconservative faction of the House GOP caucus whose power was just demonstrated during the speakership election.

McCarthy has long been an opponent of LGBTQ rights. The Republican Leader cosigned the House GOP’s legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act during the Obama administration in 2011, later co-authoring an amicus brief supporting the legislation to the U.S. Supreme Court.

More recently, in 2022 McCarthy voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, which codifies key protections for LGBTQ people as a safeguard if the Supreme Court overturns or weakens the constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

The Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest LGBTQ organization, awards McCarthy a score of “0” for his record in the legislature.

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House GOP fractures deepen as speakership fight drags into day 4

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (Texas) has been particularly outspoken, calling hardline McCarthy opponents “enemies,” and “childish”

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Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy conferring with other House Republicans after yet another vote loss (Screen shot via CSPAN)

Update: on Friday Jan. 6, the House adjourned until 10 p.m. following the 13th vote, which saw Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) gain additional ground.

WASHINGTON – The outcome of the eleventh vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to elect a speaker Thursday was roughly the same as the previous 10 ballots, with McCarthy again failing to capture the gavel by about 20 votes in his Republican Conference.

After 8 p.m. on Thursday, the chamber voted to adjourn until Friday at noon, and the Republican members are expected to continue negotiations well into the evening.

Following a two-day standoff that pitted McCarthy and most of the Republican conference against the ultraconservative “Never Kevin” members, the obstructionists reportedly won more concessions this morning.

Most important was an agreement whereby any GOP member can call for a vote to vacate the Speaker’s chair, at any time and for any reason.  

However, shortly after the seventh vote on Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) tweeted: “A deal is NOT done.  When confidences are betrayed and leaks are directed, it’s even more difficult to trust.  Totally unsat. I will not yield to the status quo.”

Until a speaker is elected, the House is effectively paralyzed – unable to seat new members, pass new rules, or move on legislation. This is the first time in a century that a speaker was not chosen with the first floor vote.

Another sign of deepening fractures within the GOP came Tuesday when Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) publicly acknowledged Donald Trump’s call for the party to unite behind McCarthy and then urged the former president to instead tell the GOP Leader to withdraw from the race.

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, another committed McCarthy opponent, cast his seventh ballot for Trump on Wednesday, by which time Twitter was abuzz with calls to give the Speaker’s gavel to the former president.

House GOP members have been sniping at each other incessantly. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (Texas) has been particularly outspoken, calling hardline McCarthy opponents “enemies,” and “childish.”

On Tuesday, Crenshaw told them, “Tell us what you actually want or shut the fuck up.”

One of the most conservative members of the GOP conference, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, said the members in her party who are opposed to McCarthy’s speakership are not motivated by ideology or policy disagreements.

Rather, Greene told reporters, these lawmakers are seeking to condition their support on winning concessions for themselves – or, in other cases, have allowed their personal feelings about McCarthy cloud their judgment at the expense of her party.

The Los Angeles Times notes without an elected leader, the House remains paralyzed, delaying members’ oaths of office, GOP committee assignments, investigations and hearings and passage of legislation. Until a speaker is a elected by a majority of the chamber, the House can do little else beyond voting for a speaker or moving to adjourn.

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GOP members battle over McCarthy as House Speaker

McCarthy made major concessions to corral support including a rule change that’d allow five GOP members to call a vote to vacate speakership

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U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) (Screen shot via CSPAN)

Updated: At 8:25 p.m. ET on Wednesday, the House voted 216-214 to adjourn until noon on Thursday

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives adjourned Wednesday afternoon with plans to reconvene at 8 p.m. after Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) failed to win over conservative rebels in his bid for speakership for the sixth time over the past two days.

With the GOP’s narrow control of the chamber, McCarthy can only afford to shed the support of a handful of Republican members, far fewer than the 20 or so who have declined to vote for him in ballot after ballot.

Until a speaker is seated, the House will not be able to swear-in newly elected members or move on legislation, committee assignments, rules changes or pay Congressional staffers.

Not since 1923 has a speaker not been chosen with the first floor vote – a sign of the extent to which the GOP is now in disarray, incapable of resolving rifts in the caucus to unite behind a leader despite how costly the nearly unprecedented delay might be for their legislative agenda.

As he prepared to depart for Kentucky on Wednesday, President Joe Biden addressed the fracas. “It’s a little embarrassing,” he said to the White House press pool before boarding Marine One for the short trip to Joint Base Andrews. He castigated the GOP noting that the process is “taking so long, and the way they are dealing with each other.”

The ultraconservative GOP members in opposition to McCarthy or who were on the fence in the weeks leading up to the election held fast despite pressure from some lawmakers with whom they are otherwise ideologically aligned, such as Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio.)

Not even former President Trump was able to change the hearts and minds of the “No-McCarthy” opposition with his Truth social post early Wednesday morning urging Republican lawmakers to unite behind McCarthy, a message that was reportedly circulated to their congressional staffs.

It appeared to have no effect. Speaking on the House floor during the fifth vote on Wednesday, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) urged her “favorite president” to instead tell McCarthy to drop out of the race.

For his part, the Republican Leader was defiant – or, at least, he was during a closed-door conference ahead of the first ballot on Tuesday during which he reportedly told colleagues: “I earned this job.”

McCarthy had made major concessions to corral more support, including a rule change that would allow for five GOP members to call a vote to vacate the speakership at any time. The Republican Leader had also welcomed input from the conference’s most conservative members leading up to the speakership election.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, framed the failed ballots as evidence that the GOP caucus is engaged in thoughtful debate about how best to use their narrowly won control of the House, telling his audience on Tuesday: “If you prefer real debate about issues that actually matter, it’s pretty refreshing to see it.”

Republican members echoed Carlson’s message on Wednesday, though it was not exactly clear what any ideological or policy-related disagreements might be.

Greene told reporters on Tuesday that several members sought to condition their support for McCarthy’s speakership on winning committee assignments and other concessions for themselves.

The Congresswoman said McCarthy had embraced the legislative agenda put forth by the most rightwing members of the Republican conference, adding that some had let their personal feelings about the GOP Leader cloud their judgment at the expense of the party.

With each of the six floor votes, Democrats were unanimous in their support for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who will succeed Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) as the party’s leader in the House.

Jeffries is the first Black member elected to lead either party in either of the two chambers of Congress. Pelosi, who was the first woman to serve in the role, stepped down from leadership as planned on Tuesday. She is regarded by many as the most effective speaker in recent history.

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