US House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy reacts to the cheers of his Republican colleagues as he is applauded after casting his own vote for himself to be the next Speaker of the House during a vote in the House Chamber on the first day of the 118th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan 3, 2023. (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The US House of Representatives adjourned on Tuesday evening after its members failed to elect a speaker for the lower chamber.
US Congressman Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, failed to secure enough votes in three ballots earlier in the day after a group of House Republicans voted against him.
There will be at least a fourth vote as House members agreed to adjourn until Wednesday noon. McCarthy was reportedly negotiating with fellow Republicans on Tuesday night.
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The political drama came nearly two months after the 2022 midterm elections, in which Republicans flipped the House and Democrats held onto their majority in the Senate.
Historically divided congress
This was the first time in a century that the US House speaker was not elected on the first ballot.
The House will have to vote on and on until a speaker is elected with a majority of votes. A candidate needs 218 votes to become speaker if no lawmaker skips the vote or votes "present."
Washington has created a culture where it's acceptable to lie to further your own interest.
Tulsi Gabbard, Former US Congresswoman
All House Democrats voted for Congressman Hakeem Jeffries from New York to lead the Democratic minority in the three rounds of voting on the speakership.
It also followed the convening of the new and divided Congress on Tuesday noon.
Jemele Hill, a contributing writer for The Atlantic, tweeted on Tuesday afternoon that "what we're witnessing today in American politics is just another brutal indictment of this dysfunctional political system."
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that President Joe Biden, a former six-term senator from Delaware, "will not insert himself in that process."
"The president served as a US senator for 34 years and he understands how this process works," Jean-Pierre said.
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the opening day of the Senate – where Democrats have a slim 51-49 majority over Republicans – when she swore in 35 either newly elected or reelected senators Tuesday afternoon.
Chuck Schumer from New York and Mitch McConnell from Kentucky, both Senate veterans, remain the chamber's majority leader and minority leader, respectively.
Public trust in congress at low level
US Congressman-elect George Santos, a 34-year-old Republican from New York, is among those who are waiting to be sworn in after the speaker vote.
Santos has recently admitted to lying about his educational history and professional biography but rejected bipartisan calls for him not to take office.
The dome of the US Capitol building is reflected in a car window, on the morning of the first day of the 118th Congress in Washington, D.C., Jan 3, 2023. (JON CHERRY / REUTERS)
"My sins here are embellishing my resume. I'm sorry," embattled Santos acknowledged last week while alleging that the controversy would not deter him "from having good legislative success."
Former US Congresswoman and Fox News contributor Tulsi Gabbard commented, "Washington has created a culture where it's acceptable to lie to further your own interest."
“But even when politicians do get caught, people just shrug their shoulders and move on," Gabbard continued. "So, no-one should be surprised that the American people don't trust these politicians."
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Public trust in the US Congress reached an all-time low, with only 7 percent of Americans expressing "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in it, according to a Gallup poll released in the summer of 2022.
A separate survey that Gallup conducted following last year's midterm elections suggested that Americans' approval of Congress remains largely negative, with 73 percent of US adults expressing disapproval.
US House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is surrounded by reporters after a House Republican caucus meeting on the first day of the 118th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington D.C., Jan 3, 2023. (EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / REUTERS)
The divided Congress with Republicans controlling the House is likely to stall Biden's legislative agenda in the next two years.
In addition, top House Republicans have vowed to launch a series of investigations into the Democratic administration, poised to augment partisan discord on Capitol Hill.
“Our politics has gotten so angry, so mean, so partisan," Biden said late last year. "And too often we see each other as enemies, not as neighbors; as Democrats or Republicans, not as fellow Americans. We've become too divided.”