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McCarthy again falls behind in US House vote but says victory close By Reuters

McCarthy again falls behind in US House vote but says victory close By Reuters

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©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The House Speaker’s chair sits vacant for a third straight day as members of the House of Representatives meet on the third day of 118, Jan

By David Morgan and Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Kevin McCarthy on Friday rallied the support of most right-wing hardliners who had opposed his bid to run the US House of Representatives but failed to secure a victory in the 13th round of voting in four days.

California lawmakers said they believed victory was near, and the chamber voted to reconvene at 10 p.m. ET (0300 GMT Saturday). McCarthy claimed that the deadlock within his party would then end.

McCarthy supporters and some Democrats feared that the concessions he was making in hopes of securing the House speaker, including agreeing to allow any member to demand a vote on his impeachment at any time, represented the deepest dysfunction of the House Congress could extend for more than 150 years.

McCarthy received support from 15 of his former hardline opponents on Friday, but received just 214 total votes, three fewer than the 217 that would be required if all 434 current House members voted. The road to a track record depends on the ever-changing math of where his six remaining hardline opponents stand and whether two McCarthy supporters who left Washington return on Friday.

“It’s going to happen,” McCarthy said, predicting a win Friday night.

The Republicans’ weaker-than-expected performance in the November midterm elections left them with a slim majority of 222 to 212, giving outsized power to right-wing hardliners who opposed McCarthy’s leadership.

They accuse him of being too open to compromises with President Joe Biden and his Democrats, who also control the US Senate. Some say they want a leader willing to force government shutdowns to cut spending.

That raises the possibility that the two parties won’t reach an agreement when the federal government hits its $31.4 trillion debt ceiling this year. A lack of agreement or even a long standoff risks a default that would shake the global economy.

Rep. Scott Perry, leader of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said he changed his vote to support McCarthy because McCarthy approved sweeping changes to how the House of Representatives authorizes spending.

“You have changes in how we spend and allocate money that will be historic,” Perry said. “We don’t want clean debt ceilings to just go through and just keep paying the bill with no countermeasures taken to control spending when Democrats control the White House and Senate.”

Congress must raise the debt ceiling to pay for spending it has already approved. Increases in the debt ceiling do not authorize new spending.

House Republicans proposed a set of rules that would formalize concessions to hardliners. These could block mandatory spending increases on programs like Social Security and Medicare, guarantee lawmakers 72 hours to review bills before a vote, and authorize a single lawmaker to force a vote to overthrow the speaker.

One of Perry’s constituents in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania applauded his move.

“It’s good for my business and good for the United States,” said Randall Miller, 65, a menswear store owner, who voted for Perry but was angered by his stance against McCarthy.

PRESSURE ON HOLDOUTS

The remaining holdouts faced increasing pressure to conform and allow Republicans to take control of the chamber after some warned the long standoff raised questions about the party’s ability to govern.

“I’ve realized that some people are just obstructionists,” said Keith Self, a newly elected Republican from Texas, after changing his vote.

It was unclear what – if anything – McCarthy might do to win her over.

Of the 20 Republicans who voted against McCarthy this week, 14 received campaign donations totaling $120,000 from McCarthy-controlled fundraising group Majority Committee, federal figures show.

The House of Representatives was left leaderless and unable to conduct business on Friday, the two-year anniversary of an attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as a violent mob stormed into Congress to overturn then-President Trump’s election loss.

Several House Democrats said they saw a connection.

“The same extremist forces continue to have a stranglehold on House Republicans. They cannot elect a leader because their conference is being held hostage by members who want to peddle misinformation and dismantle democracy,” Second House Democrat Katherine Clark said in a statement Friday.

The 13 failed votes this week marked the highest number of ballots for the Speakership since 1859.

McCarthy’s last bid for a speaker in 2015 fell through in the face of right-wing opposition. The two previous Republican spokesmen, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, left the job after conflicts with right-wing colleagues.

Swinging the Speaker’s gavel would give McCarthy the power to block Biden’s legislative agenda, coerce votes for Republican priorities on the economy, energy and immigration, and advance investigations into Biden, his administration and his family.

McCarthy has also offered members of the group influential committee posts, according to lawmakers, as well as spending restrictions aimed at achieving a balanced budget within 10 years. The deal would cap next fiscal year’s spending at last year’s levels — a significant cut when inflation and population growth are factored in.

This could face opposition from more centrist Republicans or those who have been pushing for more military funding, especially as the United States spends money to help Ukraine fend off a Russian attack.

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