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Rep. Salazar says Republicans are ‘squandering political capital’ amid infighting over speaker of the House

(WASHINGTON) — Republicans are “playing with fire” amid ongoing party infighting over who should be the speaker of the House, according to Florida Rep. Maria Salazar.

For the first time in 100 years, the vote for speaker was not decided in the first round. Over five separate rounds, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California has so far failed to secure the 218 votes needed to become speaker of the House, as now 21 Republicans have decided not to vote for him.

The voting, in its second day, is ongoing. The House cannot conduct other business until a speaker is chosen.

“Any of them could have raised their hand and say ‘Hey, I want to be speaker.’ So if you do, then you go out and you raise money and you help other candidates to make it into the majority,” Rep. Salazar, a Republican, told ABC News’ Linsey Davis.

With a razor-thin Republican majority, McCarthy can only afford to lose four votes. What started as a small movement of five members ahead of the new Congress, led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, grew to 21 Republicans not voting for McCarthy as speaker, a move that Salazar said is going to cost Republicans their “political capital.”

“My concern is that we, the Republicans who are playing games, who are wasting time and we’re not sending the right message to those people who elected us that we are here to do their business … And this merry-go-round that we’re going right now that I think is not good for us or for the country … We’re squandering our political capital, the capital that the American people gave us back in November,” Salazar told ABC News.

On the first speaker vote, Republicans who voted against McCarthy instead chose a range of candidates including Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. By the third round, all of the 19 detractors rallied around Jordan, a McCarthy supporter, who also gained a vote from Byron Donalds, R-Fla., when Donalds switched his vote from McCarthy to Jordan, bringing the total to 20.

In the fourth and fifth rounds of voting, on Wednesday, McCarthy lost another member when Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., voted present.

Despite the detractors, Salazar continued to reiterate that it was only “fair” to vote McCarthy in as speaker. Salazar also acknowledged that she is not one of McCarthy’s staunch supporters, often reiterating “he is not my friend.”

“He put us in the majority. It’s not that I am his best friend, but I think we got to be fair. And if 90% of the conference of the GOP members of the House of Representatives want that guy, then we should go with him,” Salazar told ABC News.

Salazar went on to criticize the outliers, saying they are holding up most of the conference and compared it to a marriage where you may not always agree but you don’t file for divorce over it.

“He wanted to be speaker. He went around, he raised the money. He put us in the majority. He created working groups. He then created this big document called ‘Commitment with America.’ He went to the party, he went to the other members of the party to ask for advice,” Salazar said.

“I think the guy did the most he could do. He’s not God, but he did the most. And I repeat, he is not my friend, but I think fair is fair … It’s like in a marriage. Do you really believe that you are going to be in accordance with your husband 100% of the time? No. Right. But that doesn’t mean that you’re going to divorce the guy. So why are we going around this?” Salazar told ABCNL Prime.

Without a speaker, the House cannot continue any of its regular business, including swearing-in members, forming committees or voting on legislation.

McCarthy has remained defiant and pledged that he will not give up until he is speaker, even going so far as to move into the speaker’s office.

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