Capturing the chaotic atmosphere on the Hill this week was the follow-up to a Fox News hit that McCarthy’s rep backed. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said Wednesday that every day without a speaker undermines Americans’ confidence in Republicans’ ability to govern and further divides the party.
“If you want to burn the house down, metaphorically, then what’s your plan after you do that?” I don’t really see a plan B right now,” McCaul said. He was then overthrown, live on television, as reporters chased McCarthy after the sixth speakers’ failed vote.
On the most visible measure of success, McCarthy’s support tally remained unchanged through Wednesday, with the exception of Rep. victoria spartz (R-Ind.), a former McCarthy backer who changed his vote to present. Lawmakers from both parties applauded McCarthy and the Democratic leader each time Hakeem Jeffries of New York voted for themselves.
“I’m tired of your stupid platitudes that a consultant told you to say during the campaign trail,” the rep said. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) spoke to reporters from the anti-McCarthy bloc, before getting even more blunt: “In camera, tell us what you really want or shut your mouth. This is my message.
As the usual pomp and circumstance surrounding the traditional swearing-in day of Congress turned to consternation and circumspection on Tuesday, the signs of weariness began to show. The families of the elected members, many with young children dressed up for ceremonial photos, withered and left after realizing the election for president would not end soon.
Despite these drawbacks, Democrats have generally welcomed the sight of Republicans in disarray after two years of intense focus on their own divisions. Several Democrats tweeted photos of themselves carrying buckets of popcorn to the ground as the GOP continued to seek a way forward.
Many Democrats just scrolled their phones — California Rep. Scott Peters was spotted solving a puzzle – as they waited for hours to stand up and individually vote for Jeffries. After six ballots, Democrats remained united, with Jeffries winning 212 votes each time, still beating McCarthy’s tally.
“There may not be a legislature in the United States of America, but there are tacos in the locker room,” the rep said. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) tweeted Wednesday.
There were also tense moments on the floor between the two parties during voting days. Cammack drew howls and boos on Wednesday when she accused Democrats of drinking during roll call votes. Democrats sought to effectively sanction her for those comments, but there was no mechanism to do so — the chamber cannot pass its rules until it chooses a speaker.
representing Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, called the allegation “ridiculous” and said it ultimately only hurt the house.
“These kinds of personal attacks aren’t really helpful to the institution,” he said in an interview. “And we’ve demonstrated that we want to work to get things done, and the inflammatory comments from him are of no use.”
In a nod to the no-rules dynamic, one member even said he intentionally wore his overcoat on the floor one day – breaking a rule he was frequently reprimanded for when setting House rules .
representing cori bush (D-Mo.), who wanted to punish Cammack for the remarks, added: “[When] we have these very, very long votes, speaking can get really fun. It may be weird, but not today, and even if it was, then it’s only Democrats who drink alcohol? Why is this a pot shot?
Meanwhile, some in both parties have signaled that their outward turmoil over McCarthy’s continued fight for the hammer could lead to unexpected alliances. Several Democrats suggested they were open to discussing a so-called Republican unity speaker while Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) suggested his party may have to turn to a second-choice representative. Steve Scalise (R-La.) if McCarthy couldn’t make real progress.
Other lawmakers saw the drawn-out fight for the presidency as a bad signal to the rest of the world about America’s ability to govern itself — and expressed concern that the show of incompetence would would only embolden his enemies.
“People want to know that in America we are capable of effective government,” the rep said. Ro Khanna (D-California) said on “Fox News.” “There are other countries that cannot form a government for months. It’s not the United States of America. So, for the good of the country and the institution, I hope that we will resolve this this week.
Nicholas Wu, Sarah Ferris and Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.