From strange new alliances to free popcorn: Day one of America’s ‘embarrassing’ Congress’ House speaker flop

 (AP)
(AP)

The first day of the 118th Congress ended with the House not having a speaker – for the first time in 100 years – after Kevin McCarthy failed to secure a majority of votes depsite multiple rounds.

The impasse came as a coterie of conservatives, first 19 and then 20 members, voted against giving Mr McCarthy the gavel. In the end, the House decided to adjourn after three rounds. Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York, a member of the Squad, fumed about the affair.

“This is why people look at Congress and they're like 'You ain't doing s***. Y'all ain't getting s*** done.' This is unbelievable,” he said, as he walked down the steps of the Capitol. Fellow progressive Democratic Representative-elect Summer Lee, who won an open seat in Pennsylvania, joined him in the anger since she did not get to be sworn in.

“I just wasted a good vest. Are you f***ing kidding me?” she said.

But if Democrats were slightly annoyed, they also seemed to enjoy watching Republicans completely crumble. Representative Ted Lieu of California and Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois brought popcorn for the vote.

Conversely, Wednesday began with little chance of conservatives led by Matt Gaetz of Florida, Bob Good of Virginia, Chip Roy of Texas, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Lauren Boebert of Colorado changing their minds and conceding to Mr McCarthy. And the California Republican shows no signs of backing down after spending 14 years angling to become speaker.

Even President Biden called the congressional calamity “embarrassing”.

Here are five standout moments amid the mayhem of the first day of the House of Representatives.

So does Maxwell Frost have a job? And can he get paid?

Last year, Democrat Maxwell Frost of Florida made history when he became the youngest member in recent history elected to Congress and the first Generation Z member to be elected.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

On 1 January, Mr Frost tweeted a photo of his new office, saying that he will be sworn in on 3 January, before the vote for speaker happened. But Mr Frost can not assume his new position since the speaker swears in new members. As a result, he tweeted a follow-up.

“SIKE!!!!”

Mr Frost has lately tweeted about the fact that because he is technically unemployed and as a he has had to couch-surf because his application for an apartment was denied. Mr Frost later spoke with The Independent about it.

“Actually, someone told me that I also get paid, because I'm still I'm an employee of the house right, just not a member, I’m a member-elect,” he said.

AOC chats with Republican who fantasised about killing her

In between one of the votes, astute observers noticed that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the self-described democratic socialist, spoke with Rep Paul Gosar. The exchange was notable since in 2021, Mr Gosar tweeted a video of the anime Attack on Titan, with his head on a character’s body that killed a character with her head photoshopped onto it.

As a result, House Democrats voted to strip Mr Gosar from his committees and to censure him. Mr McCarthy had pledged to reinstate him on his committee assignments the moment he became speaker. But Mr Gosar voted against Mr McCarthy.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez later told reporters that she shot down a rumor Mr Gosar said that he heard that Democrats would lower the threshold for a majority vote for speaker.

“I think that the common thread here is that neither of us wants to see Kevin McCarthy be Speaker of the House.

Democrats pass the popcorn

Clearly amused by the House Republican’ chaotic start to the new Congress, Democrats literally brought popcorn to the House floor to observe the antics.

Rep Ted Lieu tweeted a photo of himself holding a bag:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

As did Rep Robin Kelly, who brought a treat from her home state of Illinois:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Bored kids in the House chamber

Some new members of Congress brought along family members to witness the historic day. But as the votes dragged on with little progress, some lawmakers’ children could be seen slumping in their chairs.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Jim Jordan asks Republicans voting for him to isntead vote for McCarthy

During the first round of votes, only six Republicans voted for Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the cofounders of the House Freedom Caucus, even though he was not formally nominated. Conversely, 10 voted for Representative Andy Biggs, who threw his hat in the ring.

But ahead of the second round of votes, Mr Jordan gave a rousing speech saying that Republicans need to unite behind Mr McCarthy, saying that the differences between him and Representative David Joyce of Ohio or moderate Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska and Mr Biggs paled in comparison to their differences with Democrats.

“We had better come together and fight for these key things,” he said. “I think Kevin McCarthy’s the right guy to lead us. I really do, or I wouldn’t be standing up here giving up this speech.”

But the speech wound up backfiring since Mr Gaetz later stood up and formally nominated Mr Jordan and said his speech proved Mr Jordan is the right man for the job

“Jim Jordan is humble, perhaps today, humble to a fault,” he said. Maybe the right person for the job of speaker of the House is someone who wants it so bad.”

Afterward, the anti-McCarthy Republicans coalesced around Mr McCarthy and he lost the second round with 19 votes. But the bad news continued for Mr McCarthy in the third round.

Byron Donalds stabs McCarthy in the back

Representative Byron Donalds of Florida initially voted for Mr McCarthy in the first two rounds. Then in the third round, he switched his vote to Mr Jordan. Mr Donalds told The Independent he was not sure how he would vote in the future.

“We'll see this is obviously this is a very fluid situation. And so you know what we're what I'm going to do what other members gonna do is, it's going to take some adjustments, obviously, because we're gonna get to a team we're gonna get to 218, we’re going to elect a speaker,” he said.

But Mr Donalds was coy when asked how the impasse could be resolved.

“You resolve it because it has to be resolved,” he said.