Kevin McCarthy has become the first speaker candidate in 100 years to lose a vote from his own party.
Kevin McCarthy is kicking his bid for the speaker’s gavel into a historic third day after Republicans adjourned without a single defector reversing course.
But what is the cause of division amongst Republicans and what is the significance of electing the speaker? Let’s take a closer look.
The 20 Republicans opposing McCarthy want to see their conservative viewpoints more prominently reflected in the chamber’s agenda.
Many are members of the House Freedom Caucus, an outgrowth of the Tea Party, which has a long history of feuding with GOP leaders including Eric Cantor, John Boehner and Paul Ryan.
Some of the most vocal McCarthy detractors, including Representatives Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, say McCarthy hasn’t listened to them and isn’t giving conservative voices enough of a platform in the House.
McCarthy and his allies say his opponents keep moving the goal posts during the negotiations.
A few days ahead of the new Congress, McCarthy released a proposal that would allow any five House Republicans to call for the speaker’s removal and allow for more ideological diversity on House panels.
Some conservatives have since said they want any single Republican to be able to call to oust the speaker.
They’re also asking for specific members to be placed on prime committees, including Ways and Means, which controls tax, trade and health policy, and Appropriations, which allocates federal spending.
That request would mean that some conservative members would get priority over other rank-and-file Republicans with more seniority, likely leading to more infighting.
Perry, who leads the House Freedom Caucus, has also said he wants term limits, in addition to votes on right-wing priorities, including a balanced budget, dismantling the current tax system and immigration proposals, that could be politically difficult for moderate Republicans.
READ MORE: Right-wing rebels sabotage McCarthy's speaker bid in US Congress
We’re not trying to dictate terms. We represent our constituents.— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) January 5, 2023
Kevin McCarthy has no ideology. He’s a vessel through which lobbyists and special interests operate.
My team are the people in Florida who sent me here to fight for them. pic.twitter.com/3mn093kcLo
Why is electing a speaker so important?
The speaker of the House is the only congressional leadership role outlined in the Constitution.
The speaker is second in line to the presidency and controls the House calendar.
No House business can be conducted before a speaker is elected, including votes to fund the basic functions of government
Until Republicans can resolve their differences and move forward, the country is effectively without a Congress to authorise federal spending to respond to a natural disaster, terrorist attack or act of war.
Members can’t be sworn in and they can’t establish the rules for the new Congress.
McCarthy allies also argue that continuing to debate the speaker selection will delay Republicans from starting the work they have been clamouring to do since winning the majority, including investigating President Joe Biden’s administration and going after “woke” corporations that have embraced liberal social policies.
READ MORE: US Republican Kevin McCarthy struggles for support ahead of speaker vote