Republican hardliners trigger speaker showdown in new US Congress

© Getty Images via Win McNamee, AFP

Republican Kevin McCarthy's bruising quest to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives entered a second day on Wednesday, with the party's new majority fractured by a revolt among hardline members of his party who oppose his candidacy.

McCarthy weathered three failed votes for speaker on Tuesday as about 20 hardliners representing less than 10% of the caucus blocked his path to the powerful post that is second in line to the presidency.

It was the first time in 100 years that the House has not elected a speaker on its first day.

The standoff has raised fears among party members of a longer-term rift that could hobble their ability to move forward on economic, energy, spending and immigration priorities in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.

The slim 222-212 Republican majority gives greater clout to a small group of hard-right lawmakers, who want rule changes that would give them greater control over the speaker and more influence over the party's approach to spending and debt.

Supporters of McCarthy, who has served as House Republican leader since 2019, accuse some hardliners of conducting a "Never Kevin" campaign aimed solely at stopping him.

A second day of voting was expected to get under way when the House meets at noon (1700 GMT) on Wednesday.

McCarthy late Tuesday vowed to stay in the race and said he continued to have the backing of former President Donald Trump, who remains a powerful figure in the party.


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