Biden calls GOP speaker drama ‘embarrassing,’ Trump urges Republicans to elect McCarthy

Biden calls GOP speaker drama ‘embarrassing,’ Trump urges Republicans to elect McCarthy

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26 September, 2023
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said House Republicans’ inability to unify behind a speaker candidate, which has prevented the chamber from the beginning of its legislative business, which was “embarrassing” and “not a good look” for the country.

Speaking at the White House on Wednesday before traveling to Kentucky for an event to highlight last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Biden said of Republicans, “I hope they get their act together.” Biden said that “the rest of the world is looking” at the chaotic scenes on the house floor but that his focus was on “getting things done.”

“That’s not my problem,” the Democratic president said of the speaker vote. “I just think it’s really embarrassing it’s taking so long.” He declined to say whether he had any choice for the speaker job, adding “I have no idea” who will prevail.

House Republicans’ choice candidate for the job, Kevin McCarthy of California, failed to win the required majority on three ballots Tuesday — the first time in a century a speaker hasn’t been selected on the first ballot. Members-elect returned to the chamber on Wednesday for additional balloting.

Related: Still no speaker as McCarthy faces fourth defeat on Day 2 of dramatic fight

A speaker is required for the would-be members to be sworn-in and for the chamber’s business to begin.

Also early Wednesday, former President Donald Trump put his grip on House Republicans to the test, calling on every member to back Kevin McCarthy for speaker.

Trump posted on Truth Social just hours ahead of the House’s fourth attempt to elect a speaker. McCarthy came up short in his first three attempts to win the post Tuesday, seeing his support erode by one on the final ballot. On that vote, Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., switched his support to Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who — despite nominating McCarthy for speaker — received six votes on the first ballot, 19 on the second and 20 on the third

“[I]t’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” Trump wrote. “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT. IT’S TIME TO CELEBRATE, YOU DESERVE IT. Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a GREAT JOB – JUST WATCH!”

It’s unclear, however, whether the former president’s all-caps advice to House Republicans will move any votes in McCarthy’s favor. McCarthy left the floor Tuesday afternoon 16 votes shy of the majority needed to win the gavel, becoming the first majority party leader in a century not to win the speakership on the first ballot.

Related:Texans among US House members blocking Republican leader Kevin McCarthy from speakership

The historic defeat stalled members’ swearing-in, GOP committee assignments and a vote on the rules package that will ultimately govern the 118th Congress. Instead, House Republicans put their divisions on display throughout the afternoon, offering a stark contrast to their unified Democratic colleagues across the aisle and even the functioning Senate chamber on the other side of the Capitol.

And even as McCarthy was working the phones from the speaker’s office after the chamber adjourned Tuesday, some of his antagonists took issue. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., wrote a letter to the architect of the Capitol, asking, “How long will he remain there before he is considered a squatter?”

“Please write back promptly,” Gaetz added, “as it seems Mr. McCarthy can no longer be considered Speaker-Designate following today’s balloting.”

FILE – Former President Donald Trump arrives for a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Fla., Dec. 31, 2022. Republicans face contentious leadership battles inside their new House majority and at the Republican National Committee. But Trump will be central in virtually every conversation as the GOP enters what will likely be a nasty and crowded presidential primary that begins in earnest this spring. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)(Lynne Sladky / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Trump, who launched an as-yet-underwhelming third run for the presidency in November, had declined to endorse McCarthy’s bid for speaker as recently as Tuesday night in a brief phone call with NBC News, telling a reporter: “We’ll see what happens. We’ll see how it all works out.”

This report contains material from The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

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