Top US Republican delays vote on Biden agenda

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The leader of the minority Republicans in the US House frustrated Democratic ef-forts to pass President Joe Biden’s historic package of social welfare reforms Friday with an hours-long, disjointed tirade that drew mockery and angry boos from the opposite benches.

Kevin McCarthy was supposed to talk for one minute ahead of a Thursday evening vote in the lower chamber of Congress to advance the $1.8 trillion Build Back Better Act as he took the floor just after 8.30 pm (0130 GMT).

But he was still going strong at 1.30 am after a rant tackling everything from Bi-den’s spending to the Afghanistan with-drawal, travel to Europe, Elon Musk, Abraham Lincoln, the Hallmark Channel, the Nobel Peace Prize and the artwork hanging in his office.

Unlike the Senate, the House doesn’t have a “filibuster” that allows the minority to scupper legislation by talking for hours, and the vote was merely postponed until 8:00 am. “I don’t know if they think because they left I’m going to stop.

I’m not,” McCarthy said as Democrats received word that his tactics had worked and began filing out of the chamber. “I’m really not talking to them. I’m talking to the American people.”

The Republican was first laughed at and then angrily jeered as the minutes turned into hours, with his theatrics widely seen as his audition to be the next speaker in 2022 if the House flips to the Republicans.

Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office released a statement as McCarthy went into his fourth hour, accusing him of “losing the plot.”

“Tonight, Kevin McCarthy previewed Re-publicans’ very best attacks against the deficit reducing, inflation crushing Build Back Better Act,” the statement said.

“As he hopefully approaches the end, we’re all left wondering: does Kevin McCarthy know where he is right now?”

Democrats had started the evening in a serious mood, determined to approve Bi-den’s giant social welfare and climate bill, the centerpiece of his $3 trillion domestic agenda.

The debate came three days after the president signed off on the first part of his economic blueprint, a sweeping upgrade of the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

The legislation is still likely to advance from the House, where Democrats have a majority of three, with only one of their lawmakers indicating he would be defect-ing to vote no.

It would then go to the Senate — where it is likely to get an even bumpier ride, with the Democrats’ deficit hawks jittery about historic spending as gas and food prices spiral — before it gets a final rubber stamp back in the House, likely in January.

“Unemployment claims are down nearly 70 percent since I took office. Retail sales are up,” Biden said in a statement ahead of the debate.“I’ve signed a historic infrastructure law and we have the Build Back Better Act on its way. Things are looking up.”—Agecncies

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