House Republicans Return to Washington for Speaker Election
After a series of tumultuous events, House Republicans are back to square one in their search for a new leader. The deeply divided Republican conference has attempted to elect a speaker three times in as many weeks. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has been essentially closed for nearly three full weeks.
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With tensions flaring among GOP members, Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) dismissed lawmakers for the weekend on Oct. 20 saying, “We need space and time for candidates to talk to other members.”
Over the weekend, nine Republicans announced their bid for the speakership: Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Min.), Reps. Mike Johnson (R-La.), Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), and Dan Meuser (R-Pa.).
Mr. McHenry said he hoped that his temporary duties would end this week with the election of a speaker.
GOP members are increasingly impatient to resolve the matter and get back to work. On the table are a request from President Joe Biden to provide wartime support to Ukraine and Israel, the unfinished appropriations process which must be resolved by Nov. 17 to avoid a government shutdown, and the security of the southern border, a high priority for Republicans.
“If we don’t have a Speaker of the House, we can’t govern. And every day goes by, we’re essentially shut down as a government,” Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on the ABC News program “This Week” on Oct. 22.
Senate Republicans, though wary of giving advice to their House colleagues, have also shown signs of impatience.
“Look, I’m not an expert on the House,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on “Face the Nation” on Oct. 22. “I have my hands full here in the Senate, and we’re going to do our job and hope the House can get functional here sometime soon.”
More than two-thirds of Americans say the House should elect a speaker as soon as possible according to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Oct. 22. An Oct. 12 CNN/SSRS poll showed that 74 percent of respondents disapprove of the way Republican leaders in Congress are handling their jobs.
Republicans briefly considered a workaround last week that was aimed at opening the House for business while the speaker race continues. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who was speaker designee at the time, and other Republicans proposed the idea to temporarily invest Mr. McHenry with the full powers of the speakership.
Mr. Jordan later said it was an attempt to “lower the temperature” within the tense Republican conference while allowing the House to conduct business.
The matter was dropped on Oct. 19 after a large number of Republicans opposed the idea.
Hard Work Ahead
Whoever claims the gavel will also inherit the challenge of governing with an often-ungovernable majority.
Mr. McCarthy was ousted from the speakership on Oct. 3 by eight Republicans over the objection of 210 others. The move was successful only because 208 Democrats joined the effort.
Prior to that, a similar small group of GOP members defeated a continuing resolution presented by the very conservative House Freedom Caucus and the more pragmatic Main Street Caucus.
The proposed 30-day extension of spending accompanied by an overall 8 percent cut in non-defense discretionary spending was intended to forestall an imminent government shutdown while allowing more time to complete the 2024 appropriations process.
Republican infighting during the 118th Congress has caused some observers to wonder if any speaker can bring the Republican conference to heel.
“There’s a very real danger that [the House will] elect somebody, and three or four or five weeks from now, you’re going to have a group of people blow up and decide to go back into the same mess,” former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” “So they need to pick somebody to get stability.”
Previous candidates for the speakership were undone by their perceived leaning in one ideological direction or another.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) was elected speaker designee on Oct. 11. His candidacy was derailed almost immediately by supporters of his opponent, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who considered Mr. Scalise too tied to the insider politics of Washington by virtue of his position in conference leadership.
Mr. Jordan was the elected speaker designee. But his candidacy was undone by mostly more moderate members who objected to Mr. Jordan’s seemingly aggressive leadership and far-right policy positions.
Both candidates were well-known outside the House of Representatives. Most of the nine candidates in the next round have much lower profiles. Collectively, they present a range of ideological viewpoints within Republican conservatism.
Republicans are slated to meet at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 for their candidate forum.
A conference vote on the candidates is expected at 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 24.
Mr. McHenry said he hoped to see a vote on the conference floor as early as Oct. 24 with the election concluded by Oct. 27.
How has the disarray within the Republican Party affected their ability to effectively govern?
Government funding, which would have avoided a shutdown, was rejected by 44 Republicans and all Democrats.
The current state of disarray within the Republican Party has left many questioning their ability to effectively govern. The ongoing speaker election has exposed deep divisions within the party and has hindered progress on important issues.
As Republicans return to Washington for yet another attempt at electing a new speaker, the stakes are high. The challenges facing the country, including providing support to Ukraine and Israel, resolving the appropriations process, and securing the southern border, require swift and decisive action.
The delay in electing a new speaker has not gone unnoticed by the American public. Recent polls show that a majority of Americans believe the House should elect a speaker as soon as possible. Additionally, the disapproval ratings for Republican leaders in Congress are alarmingly high.
Given the circumstances, it is crucial that House Republicans come together and choose a leader who can unite the party and effectively govern. This leader must be able to navigate the diverse interests within the party and make the tough decisions necessary to move the country forward.
Whoever claims the gavel will undoubtedly face a difficult task. They will need to find a way to govern with a majority that often proves to be unmanageable. The recent ousting of Kevin McCarthy as speaker is a clear example of the challenges that come with leading the Republican Party.
The events of the past few weeks have highlighted the need for strong and decisive leadership within the Republican Party. It is time for House Republicans to put aside their differences and come together for the sake of the country. The American people are counting on them to govern effectively and address the pressing issues at hand.
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