1672699350 New US Congress Chaos in the House of Representatives threatens

New US Congress: Chaos in the House of Representatives threatens

Kevin McCarthy, the conservative leader in the House of Congress, wants to be elected Speaker of the House on Tuesday, nearly two months after the midterm elections. It’s usually a “ceremonial exercise with no big surprises,” writes the New York Times. Now, however, there is fear of “a vortex of chaos”, “which has not existed in the house for a century”. It is “far from certain” that McCarthy will hold the third highest office in the United States, according to Fox News.

The reason? In what may be his first term as Speaker, McCarthy has a “historically small majority” and is “historically unpopular compared to other members of the House of Representatives who wanted to be Speaker”, summarized CNN commentator Harry Enten. The party’s right wing in particular could prove fatal to McCarthy. Some representatives refused to support him to the bitter end and instead campaigned for far-right opponent Andy Biggs.

Kevin McCarthy

IMAGO/Rod Lamkey Republican Kevin McCarthy has to shake for his nomination for “Speaker of the House.”

McCarthy must be shaking

The California State Representative can hardly afford any opponent. In the November midterm elections, the Republicans had won only a narrow majority in the Chamber of Deputies – the “red wave” expected by many did not materialize. Republicans will be 222 of the 435 deputies, just above the majority of 218 votes.

And McCarthy would normally need 218 votes to become president and follow in Nancy Pelosi’s footsteps. As things stand at the moment, he doesn’t have that — at least five Republicans have spoken out against him in the run-up to the election. As early as 2015, McCarthy failed to be elected as spokesperson due to resistance from his own party colleagues.

Graphic shows the distribution of seats in the US Senate and House of Representatives after the 2022 congressional election

Graphics: APA/ORF.at; Source: dpa/CNN

“Not since Democrat John Nance Garner in 1931 has a potential Speaker of the House had such a narrow majority,” CNN said. For the 57-year-old coach, conditions are extremely bad. The majority threshold can only drop below 218 votes if enough deputies stay home on election day or just vote “present” instead of a candidate.

Blockade feared in the Chamber of Deputies

Be that as it may, speaker choice is at the top of Tuesday’s agenda. The chamber cannot begin its work without a spokesperson, as the latter is also responsible for the swearing-in of deputies. If McCarthy – who counts former President Donald Trump among his supporters – does not win a majority on the first ballot, another will follow. This can be repeated until one speaker gains a majority. 100 years ago there were the last elections. In 1855 and 1856, the procedure lasted over two months and well over 100 rounds.

The party’s right wing is aware of its power over the issue and has recently put McCarthy under severe pressure. Observers attributed McCarthy’s unwillingness to write a “blank check” to Ukraine, for example, to the delicate situation within the party. It also explains why he has promised ultraconservatives like MP Marjorie Taylor Greene and MP Paul Gosar key committee posts.

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Democrats excluded Greene from the committee’s work in 2021, citing racist and anti-Semitic statements. Gosar circulated a video that same year that contained comical scenes in which he, like a superhero, attacked Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic President Biden. It is also unclear whether Republican George Santos, recently targeted by the judiciary, will actually be sworn in as deputy.

Commissions of inquiry as leverage

But what options do Republicans really have with a narrow majority in the House of Representatives? One thing is certain: with the expected blockades of the Senate, which is maintained by the Democrats, it is not to be expected that there will be legislative initiatives of their own. Instead, Republicans can launch congressional investigations into Biden and his administration.

Topics will include the chaotic 2021 troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the situation on the border with Mexico, and the alleged political instrumentalization of the Justice Department and FBI federal police.

US President Joe Biden and Hunter Biden

AP/Manuel Balce Centeta Joe Biden with son Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden in the crosshairs of Republicans

Once again, the party wants to take action against Biden’s son Hunter. Specifically, they want to investigate Hunter Biden’s business activities. Republicans accuse him of using his father’s high political position to do business in Ukraine and China.

Some Republicans are even calling for impeachment proceedings against Joe Biden and parts of his cabinet. Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas, who is in charge of the border, is particularly targeted. But even if impeached, they would ultimately fail in the Democrat-controlled Senate, which also convenes on Tuesday.

Biden faces headwinds

However, the majority in the House of Representatives allows Republicans to get in the way of the Biden administration’s work. Conservatives can block all of Biden’s reform bills in the House. In his first two years in office, the 80-year-old president has had considerable difficulties with his reform agenda because Republicans have a blocking minority in the Senate.

The loss of the House of Representatives is another hurdle for Biden. Abortion or gun law reforms seem hopeless. In many other pieces of legislation, such as the annual budget accounts, parties generally agree on compromises, although significant conflicts regularly arise.

Senate Majority Crucial for Democrats

The fact that the Senate remains in Democrat hands after the November elections is of great importance to Biden. If Republicans had gained control of both chambers of Congress, they could have passed a series of laws that Biden would have had to veto. Now Democrats could block legislative initiatives from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in the Senate.

However, a majority in the Senate is particularly important for appointments to government and judicial positions. For example, the president appoints federal judges deployed throughout the country. Personal data must then be confirmed by the Senate. It is also possible that Biden will fill a vacant seat on the US Supreme Court.

But even the majority of Democrats in the Senate are very small: they represent 51 of the 100 senators. Senator Kyrsten Sinema recently caused quite a stir. Sinema wanted to leave the Democrats and act as an independent senator. It remains unclear to what extent the voting behavior of centrist Sinema, who has repeatedly blocked Democrats’ legislative projects in the past, might change. With Bernie Sanders and Angus King, there are already two independent senators, who, however, often vote with the Democrats and are therefore assigned to them.