By the time the House of Representatives adjourned late on Wednesday after Republicans failed on their sixth attempt to elect a new speaker, tempers had flared, a chorus of booing had erupted, and gleeful Democrats munched popcorn as turmoil engulfed the other side of the aisle.
After two days of backroom dealings, Republicans and Democrats could not even agree on whether to call it a night – the knife-edge vote to adjourn prompted shouts and confusion. On CNN, an anchor pondered: “Is this normal?”
What should have been a straightforward vote for Republicans, who hold a majority in the lower chamber, has turned into a political drama that has paralysed the third branch of American government.
Wednesday was day two of the chaotic saga, as a group of hard-line Republicans refused repeatedly to support party leader Kevin McCarthy, denying him his long-coveted speaker position and bringing all other House business screeching to a halt.
“Well, it’s Groundhog Day. Again,” congresswoman Kat Cammack, a Florida Republican, said from the floor as she again nominated Mr McCarthy to lead the chamber.
Now the deadlock in the 118th Congress will drag on into Thursday – the longest vote for a speaker in a century.