Democrats have turned their back on the idea of a unity candidate — someone who could get bipartisan votes to secure the Speaker’s gavel — as Republicans struggle to get a Speaker elected.
Before Tuesday’s Speaker vote, some Democratic lawmakers had suggested that a “unity” candidate be elected should Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA.) be unable to rally the required votes to get the Speakership.
But that narrative changed on Wednesday (January 4) after McCarthy failed to gain the Speakership in three consecutive votes. Now, Democrat leaders have indicated their unwillingness to help Republicans elect a leader that will get bipartisan support.
The incoming chair of the House Democratic Caucus, Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA.), stated, “this is on them,” during a press briefing on Wednesday.
However, Aguilar also revealed that Republicans hadn’t approached him regarding a consensus candidate, and Democrat leaders hadn’t presented the idea to their rank-and-file members.
Aguilar noted he would be open to the idea if Republicans suggested “something that was real” before emphasizing the lack of proof that the GOP is “willing to engage.
As the House is in limbo because of a Republican stalemate, external centrist groups are urging lawmakers to consider a moderate figure — including one outside of Congress — to take the role.
But as external voices grow louder around support for a consensus candidate, Democrats are pulling back, unwilling to rescue their flailing Republican colleagues — even lawmakers who once were vocal supporters of a consensus candidate, like Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA.).
On Tuesday night, following the showing of substantial and unwavering opposition to McCarthy, Khanna described the events as a “Republican mess.”
The California Democrats also highlighted the vote as a “failure [by the GOP] to govern,” adding it is Republicans’ “problem to fix” before suggesting the GOP support Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a non-starter for Republicans.