From insurrection to paralysis: The US Congress faces further humiliation

 The House meets for the third day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington.
The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has spectacularly failed to elect a Speaker. Credit: AP

Exactly two years ago today, Congress was surrounded by a baying mob demanding that the 2020 presidential election be overturned.

When the crowd stormed the building and entered the Speaker's office, it seemed that America's long experiment with democracy was in real jeopardy.

Two years on, Congress is immersed not in insurrectionary activity but in something almost as serious - near-total paralysis and dysfunction.

Rep Kevin McCarthy leaving the floor after the House voted to adjourn for the evening. Credit: AP

For a fourth consecutive day, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has spectacularly failed to elect a Speaker.

It means one of the three branches of the US government is offline.

The House cannot do its basic work: It cannot pass laws, provide oversight through its committees, declare war, or address urgent budgetary issues.

The crisis is proving impossible to resolve so far.

ITV News was the only news crew who filmed the rioters as they stormed Capitol Hill on January 6. Watch Robert Moore's report from Washington DC in full:

Republicans have the narrowest of majorities in the House. Within their ranks are hard-line, ultra-conservative members who have vowed to block their own leader, Kevin McCarthy, from becoming the Speaker.

They fear he is too weak, too unprincipled, and too likely to compromise with Democrats.

Worse still, there is no viable alternative; no Republican is emerging as a consensus candidate.

And so Congress is facing one of the most reputationally damaging episodes since the Civil War.

Kevin McCarthy has endured 11 consecutive defeats in his bid to win the speakership, a rolling 72-hour humiliation.

The House next meets at noon Washington time today, 5pm UK time.

The American flag flies over the House side of the US Capitol. Credit: AP

In essence, the civil war within the Republican Party has spilled out onto the floor of the House.

It is pro-Trump members against never-Trumpers. It's radical election deniers against moderate Republicans.

It's those who saw the insurrectionists of January 6th as patriots against those who saw them as threatening America's foundations.

Former President Donald Trump. Credit: AP

The Republican Party is splintered and fragmented. Even if McCarthy does become speaker later today, he will be a hostage to his hard-right flank.

The anguish of the party flows directly from the wildly divisive politics of President Trump. 

We saw it with our own eyes two years ago as the insurrectionists broke through the police lines and into the Senate chamber.

We are seeing it again today in the dysfunction and bitterness that is still coursing through the Republican Party and Congress.

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