Russia-Ukraine: Two years of war
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US Rep. Mike Johnson is surrounded by fellow members as he speaks to reporters after securing the nomination for House Speaker from the Republican conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Oct. 24, 2023.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The House Republican circus rolls on

It took five rounds of voting on Tuesday to make Tom Emmer of Minnesota the Republican nominee for speaker of the US House of Representatives … and about four more hours to persuade him his candidacy was doomed. Though he won a clear majority of House Republicans (117 of 221) in the final round of voting, he knew it wouldn’t be easy to earn the backing of 217 of 221 Republicans needed to win a majority of the full House.

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks to reporters in the US Capitol after the House of Representatives passed a stopgap government funding bill to avert an immediate government shutdown.

REUTERS/ Ken Cedeno

Will avoiding a shutdown cost McCarthy the speakership?

There was no shortage of drama on Capitol Hill this weekend – including a pulled fire alarm that delayed voting by an hour – as the US government managed to avoid another shutdown. Congress passed a stopgap funding bill on Saturday that will keep the lights on through Nov. 17. The proposal easily cleared the House before garnering Senate approval 88 to 9. It included natural disaster aid but no new support for border restrictions or assistance for Ukraine.

The measure passed a day after Republican Rep. Andy Biggs and 20 others blocked a Republican stopgap bill replete with spending cuts, border controls, and curbs on immigration. Unable to fund the government with just conservative votes, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy changed gears, offering a bill that would satisfy Democrats. The absence of fresh support for Ukraine prompted Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet to briefly delay the vote, but bipartisan senators resolved the impasse by pledging to further fund aid to Ukraine "in the coming weeks." President Joe Biden made it clear that “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted.”

McCarthy is expected to introduce a separate Ukraine aid bill when the House returns. But having worked with Democrats to get this measure passed could cost him his job. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican hardliner, said on Sunday that he plans to move for McCarthy’s ouster this week.

If Gaetz introduces a measure to remove McCarthy, the House will have 48 hours to vote on it.

But McCarthy remains defiant. “If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it," he said. "There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what’s best for this country.”

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) bangs the gavel for the first time after being elected the 55th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in a late night 15th round of voting on January 7, 2023.

Reuters

Bruised McCarthy finally sworn in as House speaker

After four days and 15 rounds of voting, Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has finally been elected and sworn in as speaker of the House of Representatives, one of the most influential posts in the US government. Heading into Friday evening’s first vote, there were still six holdout Republicans: Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Bob Good (R-Va.), and Matthew M. Rosendale (R-Mont.). After a series of desperate backdoor negotiations, the 14th round saw Boebert and Gaetz vote as “present,” leaving McCarthy one vote shy of the gavel. Frustrations visibly boiled over in the chamber, and lawmakers finally elected McCarthy in the 15th round, with six voting as “present.” The humiliating last few days have demonstrated McCarthy’s limited sway over an unruly Republican caucus, and he was forced to make significant concessions, including agreeing to a provision that would allow a single lawmaker to bring to the floor a vote of no confidence against him at any time. The GOP stalwart had long resisted giving the ragtag of anti-establishment holdouts this sort of power but was forced to acquiesce.

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