Deadlock deepens in US House Speaker showdown

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The deeply riven US House of Representatives was engulfed in crisis for a second day running Wednes-day as fresh rounds of voting failed to produce a winner in the race for speaker.

Conservative hardliners have been blocking es-tablishment pick Kevin McCarthy in a humiliating standoff that has paralysed the lower chamber of Congress since it flipped to narrow Republican con-trol after the new year.

Some 20 Republicans denied McCarthy a ma-jority in three drawn-out votes on Wednesday — forcing another overnight adjournment with little to show for the drama — after the rebels had spent Tuesday blocking the California congressman’s path to the gavel.

Republican infighting, described by Democratic President Joe Biden as “embarrassing for the coun-try,” has made the 2023 Speakership race the first in a century to require multiple rounds of voting.

The stalemate has left the chamber unable to swear in members, fill committees, adopt rules for legislating or negotiate a path through the paralysis.

The House adjourned until noon on Thursday after the sixth indecisive ballot, allowing the Repub-licans a few precious hours to regroup and settle on a new strategy before going back into the fray.

McCarthy — who has raised millions of dollars to elect right-wing lawmakers — dragged his party back to a 222-212 House majority in last year’s midterms after four years in the wilderness.

The 57-year-old former entrepreneur has long coveted the opportunity to replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi, something of an icon in US politics who held the gavel in the last Congress.

But McCarthy’s speaker bid has opened a trou-bling rift within the House Republicans, with cen-trists referring to the hard-right faction leading the charge against him as the “Taliban 20.”

The standoff sparked frantic behind-the-scenes negotiations as McCarthy’s allies sought to cut a deal with his conservative detractors that could also win the approval of moderates.

US media reported that the rival sides were in talks about setting up a “negotiating group” to hash out their differences, made up of four McCarthy allies and four representatives of the renegade Re-publicans.

McCarthy meanwhile told reporters in Congress he planned to stay in the race and had spoken to his biggest VIP backer, Donald Trump, who was still supporting his candidacy.

The former president duly called for an end to the McCarthy blockade, warning the renegade Republi-cans not to “turn a great triumph into a giant and embarrassing defeat.”

The comments didn’t move the needle at all on the House floor and were curtly dismissed by nor-mally staunch Trump ally Lauren Boebert, who said her “favourite president” had things backwards.

“The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, sir, you do not have the votes and it’s time to