WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives began a third week of paralysis on Monday as Republicans struggled to unite behind a figure to lead them out of a bitter civil war that has thwarted quick action on the Israel crisis and other urgent business.
The lower chamber of Congress has been at a standstill since Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted by his own party on October 3, leaving the chamber with no leader to bring legislation to the floor. Jim Jordan, the 59-year-old chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee who is backed by Donald Trump, has voiced confidence that he can get the 217 votes required to secure the speakership in a vote expected on Tuesday. But his narrow win in the House Republican conference’s internal speaker election Friday over an obscure lawmaker with almost no public profile raised questions over whether he has the support to win that vote.
Jordan spent the weekend trying to move colleagues into his column but there is still a sizeable group said to be opposed to his candidacy.
Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the House, meaning nearly all of their lawmakers have to coalesce behind their nominee in the election for that candidate to stand any chance of winning the gavel.
Louisiana’s Steve Scalise, the Republican second-in-command, beat Jordan narrowly for the nomination last week before abruptly dropping out when it became clear he wouldn’t win a floor vote.
That created bad blood between the Jordan camp and Scalise supporters upset by their candidate not getting the full-throated backing of the entire party after winning the nomination.
Moderates also complain that Jordan supporters are using strong-arm tactics to pressure those unsure whether to back him.
“That is the dumbest way to support Jordan,” Texas Republican Dan Crenshaw told CNN. “As somebody who wants Jim Jordan, the dumbest thing you can do is to continue pissing off those people and entrench them.”
Crenshaw added that it would be “really, really difficult” for Jordan to get to 217 votes, however. A second public tussle for the speakership — just nine months after McCarthy’s marathon, 15-round battle to win the gavel — could hardly have come at a worse time.
The leaderless House has been unable to pass any bills or approve White House requests for emergency aid, with Israel — the top US ally in the Middle East — at war with Hamas militants.
Meanwhile lawmakers are staring at a looming government shutdown as they have only a month to agree on 2024 federal spending levels before the money runs out.