February 3, 2023

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A House Divided – The New York Times

The election for Speaker of the House is the kind of government procedure Americans often ignore, but yesterday’s highly unusual votes have important implications for the future of the Republican Party and how it will govern.

On their first day in the majority, House Republicans couldn’t agree on who will lead them. MP Kevin McCarthy has tried for years to become Speaker, but some members of his party’s far-right faction have refused to support him. It was the first time in 100 years that the House did not choose a speaker on the first ballot, and the legislature adjourned after three ballots without making a choice. The chairman of the Democratic House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries, even received more votes than McCarthy in all three ballots.

Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right lawmaker who has become a close McCarthy ally, accused her fellow campaigners of “playing Russian roulette with our hard-earned Republican majority.” Bill Huizenga, another McCarthy supporter, asked his colleagues, “Aren’t you interested in governing?”

Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who backed McCarthy, refused to say after the votes if he sticks to his approval. (McCarthy said later that he had spoken to Trump and still had his support.)

Part of McCarthy’s problem is that his party has a narrow lead in the House of Representatives with 222 seats versus the Democrats’ 212 seats. So he needs support from the Republican right flank to get the majority he needs to become Speaker. But that’s just one part of the story.

Republicans are also divided on what the party is and should stand for: Should it continue on the path Trump embarked on when he won the Republican presidential nomination in 2016? Or should the party moderate and make more compromises to consolidate power?

“There are a number of lawmakers in this group who never liked McCarthy and never trusted him,” said my colleague Catie Edmondson, who serves on the Congress. “They see him as an extension of the DC establishment that they want to tear down.”

The answers to these questions will help shape how Republicans will govern — whether they stick to a hard-line version of Trumpism or adopt more moderate views to attract more voters. “Regardless of the outcome, the votes have already shown that there is a powerful group of right-wing lawmakers who will not be afraid to show their weight,” Catie said.

Today’s newsletter looks at the potential ramifications for Republicans and the country.

The Republican breakup in the House of Representatives is the latest example of a broader debate within the party: Should Republicans fully embrace Trumpism?

McCarthy has pledged allegiance to Trump, who called him “my Kevin.” But although McCarthy has courted far-right members, he takes a more pragmatic approach to politics than many of the party’s far right. He believes that to get anywhere, Republicans need to nominate more moderate candidates who can win in swing districts. And in order to pass important bills, Republicans occasionally have to make compromises.

McCarthy’s Republican opponents are tougher. Many do not believe in compromising with politicians who do not believe in Trumpism. They want to oust Trump critics from the party. And they don’t trust McCarthy to make that vision a reality.

These ideological divisions fuel much of the debate over who the next speaker should be. They are also driving other debates within the party, including who should be the party’s presidential nominee in 2024.

In party politics, extreme flanks often meet more moderate figures. What is unusual about modern far-right lawmakers is their willingness to refuse to compromise and take on their own leaders. They effectively drove out the last two Republican speakers, John Boehner and Paul Ryan. McCarthy himself had to withdraw from the speaker race in 2015 after a right-wing revolt and gave way to Ryan’s application.

Since then, McCarthy has made offers to the ultra-conservatives to bolster their support. For example, before yesterday’s vote, he announced that he would only allow five MPs to call a vote on the impeachment of the Speaker at any given time. The move was a departure from his previous stance of opposing a snap vote altogether, but it still fell short of the view of party hardliners, who said such a vote should only require one lawmaker to propose it.

For the ultraconservatives, who still see McCarthy as too dovish, the concession wasn’t enough. The right-wing Club for Growth released a statement on Monday noting that it was rejecting McCarthy’s bid for spokesman unless he met certain demands. It criticized House Republicans’ super-PAC spending in primaries, which McCarthy used to promote more moderate candidates.

Because Republicans control neither the Senate nor the White House, their infighting in the House of Representatives may not result in immediate, broader consequences.

But House Republicans have some things they want done that they need a spokesman for, specifically filling House committees to investigate the Biden administration. A protracted debate over who should run the house is already slowing those investigations.

Finally, a divided House majority could lead to more government shutdowns and economic crises if Republicans fail to secure votes on must-pass legislation.

At the very least, the situation is a preview of Republicans’ efforts to get ahead of the 2020 election.

McCarthy lost support as voting resumed. 19 Republicans opposed him on the first and second votes, 20 on the third.

The Republican defectors grouped around Jim Jordan, a far-right Ohio congressman who supports McCarthy.

Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert are among McCarthy’s opponents. Their demands include spending restrictions and a vote on term limits for congressmen.

George Santos, who made false claims about his background, spent his first day in Congress shunned by his Republican peers.

Salary Transparency in California. Legal sports betting in Ohio. These are some of the laws that come into effect.

Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin remains in critical condition after suffering cardiac arrest during a game on Monday.

Medical experts said a blow to the chest in a specific spot at a specific time could have set Hamlin’s heart into an irregular rhythm.

After a year of torment for Buffalo, one bright spot — the Bills — has become another source of pain. “Buffalo is strong, but this is all too much,” said a news anchor.

The NFL is a unifying force. But fans must acknowledge their complicity in on-field violence, writes The Times’ Kurt Streeter.

The rise of respiratory viruses exposes a healthcare industry unprepared to care for seriously ill children, argue Alexander Stockton and Lucy King in this video.

It’s time for legislation to better support workers with disabilities and pay them fairly, writes Pepper Stetler.

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Zion Williamson has to be out for at least three weeks: The Pelicans star will again be out for a long time with an injury – this time a hamstring strain. It’s a blow to New Orleans, whose continued success is a big surprise this NBA season.

“Her sense of artistic expression is what every adult desires,” said Christina Wyshnytzky, the museum’s associate curator. Many children have chosen to depict images of war – tanks, soldiers, planes. But the children who had experienced the most severe trauma tended to focus on lighter images.

“It’s hard not to cry when you work with them,” said Yustyna Pavliuk, one of the women behind the program, “but they live on.”