WASHINGTON — In the lobby next to the U.S. House chamber Thursday during the eighth roll-call vote for the next speaker, Nick LaLota expressed frustration at being unable to start serving his Suffolk constituents as the representative of New York’s 1st Congressional District.
LaLota and all other incoming House members were still waiting to become official U.S. representatives because they must first elect a speaker to swear them in, a process blocked by a Republican faction refusing to back House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy of California.
“I’d much rather my staff now be spending time responding to constituents' needs — specifically, veterans’ needs, people who need their Social Security or tax returns addressed,” he said. “Yeah, I'd much rather be focusing my time on that than this internal politics.”
Support for McCarthy
The four members of Long Island’s new all-Republican delegation — second-term Rep. Andrew Garbarino of Bayport and newcomers LaLota of Amityville, Anthony D’Esposito of Island Park and George Santos of Nassau and Queens — voted for McCarthy every time.
By Thursday night, the House had conducted a historic 11th roll-call vote for speaker.
After the 11th vote, the House adjourned and will reconvene Friday.
The last time the House needed more than one roll call vote came 100 years ago.
Garbarino said his first speaker vote came during the COVID-19 pandemic and his second set a record.
“I feel like I'm here for the history book moments,” he joked.
Garbarino, D’Esposito and LaLota said they expected Republicans, who hold a narrow majority with 222 votes, to work out their differences and elect McCarthy as House speaker. Santos did not respond to an interview request.
Their frustration was clear.
“Do I want us to get to work? Yeah, there's a lot of important stuff we have to do. You know, Long Island needs a lot. The country needs a lot. But we have to find a way to work together,” Garbarino said.
“I’ve got constituents texting me, like, you know, ‘What's going on? This is embarrassing,’” he added. “But if it helps us be stronger, and more unified as the majority after these discussions, it’s going to be better because of those actually really important votes.”
Important votes to come
Among the biggest votes will be on raising the debt limit this summer, Garbarino said. Some hard-liners said they want to force cuts in discretionary domestic spending, Social Security and Medicare, and.would rather shut down the government than vote to raise the debt limit.
Garbarino said he would work to keep the government open.
LaLota reflected on his experience in the Suffolk County and state legislatures. He previously served as the chief of staff to the Republican presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature and is the former Republican commissioner for the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
“It's interesting, the dynamic that has gone into the politics in the last couple of days. My sense is it’s much more personality based than legislative or ideological priority based,” he said. “That to me is probably the most surprising thing that I've seen in the last couple of weeks.”
D’Esposito referred to his experience as an NYPD officer to explain what he sees in the Republicans' division.
“This is a process. Just like in the police department, you know, there's different ways to do combat policing," D’Esposito told Newsday. "There's those jump-out-of-the-car collars, and there's those long-term investigations."
“Sometimes, he added, "you have to dig your heels in, and you have to work on the long term to see results. And I think that’s what we're seeing over the last two or three days."
“I'm not sure if it's going to be today,” D'Esposito said, “but I am confident that we will come together as a party, and Kevin will be the next speaker.”