House Republicans begin the next act of their Washington farce on Monday, still at a loss as to how to get out of their current dilemma despite having just ousted the incumbent speaker and rejected two potential alternatives.
After all that’s happened in Congress—impeachments, fiscal cliffs, government shutdowns, even an insurrection—the modern Republican Party has managed to top it all with a debacle that’s embarrassing senior party leaders and could hurt the House GOP’s chances of maintaining or even increasing its slim majority in 2024. The leadershipless House is incapable of even passing a resolution denouncing the Hamas attacks in Israel, let alone the crucial bills needed to fund the government.
After Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan gave up his hopeless effort for speaker last Friday, followed by Majority Leader Steve Scalise the week before, at least nine additional candidates have signed up to run this week. Three of the most influential members of the House GOP have been weakened by the rebellion that began nearly three weeks ago with the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The extremists who opposed McCarthy and Scalise and the moderate members of battleground districts who ultimately doomed the bulldozing Jordan would rethink their positions if a newcomer were to enter the race. But thus far, no candidate has shown signs of getting the 217 votes from chamber members that would put them in charge. After weeks of GOP infighting that bred new grievances and vows for retribution, the challenge of making the House a viable legislative body appears unattainable for whoever eventually takes the gavel.
Ohio Representative Mike Turner, head of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said on AWN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that “you know, getting 217 is obviously going to be very difficult and is the sort of Rubik’s Cube of the answer to all of this.”
Trying to bring together the House Republican conference when they can’t see how ridiculous they look is like trying to twist coloured squares together in the right order. Apparently oblivious to the deteriorating global stability surrounding them and the shutdown threat in front of them, Republicans seem eager to fight a civil war over fissures in the conservative movement.
Since the Senate cannot make legislation without the House, the void is rendering one branch of US government ineffective. Senator and Republican Party leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky remarked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday that “we need” a speaker because “the House can’t do anything” without one.
This mess is much bigger than the typical congressional drama in which legislators dither and go through the motions of their political rituals before solving the problem. The lack of a speaker makes it impossible for the House to vote in favour of President Joe Biden’s fresh aid proposal to Israel. New assistance for Ukraine, of which $60 billion was asked by Biden last week, is the subject of a vital and heated debate that cannot yet begin. Considering growing GOP opposition to backing Kyiv’s democratic government, blocking the US lifeline might soon have devastating effects on Ukraine’s struggle for survival and give Russian President Vladimir Putin a boost.
Yet disregard any international repercussions. Millions of Americans may soon feel the effects of the House’s implosion. The Republican Party has now squandered three of the six available weeks before a potential government shutdown in the middle of November. Not much serious work is going to get done this week even if the party suddenly pushes swiftly towards choosing a new leader.
The GOP as seen through the lens of its vacant speakership
The vacant chair becomes a powerful symbol of how the disarray inside American politics has undermined the country’s ability to lead. The more than two-hundred-year experiment in people-led government, which rests on compromise rather than absolutes, is likewise under assault. That’s an idea that the modern Republican Party seems to reject, as proven by Trump and many of his House acolytes insisting on ruling despite the fact that voters in 2020 rejected the former president’s ambition for a second term.
The Republican conference in the House has proven it cannot even reach consensus among its own ranks, much less prepare a single front to negotiate with the Senate and White House, both of which are now controlled by Democrats. To avoid a government shutdown, the next Republican speaker will have to decide whether to appease far-right Republicans with extreme spending cuts that the White House and the Senate will never accept, or whether to advance stopgap funding with some Democratic votes. This is the same choice that cost McCarthy his dream job. The incoming speaker’s tenure could be even shorter than the California Republican’s if they are unable to alter the status quo.
A new speaker will also be impeded by the fact that many conservatives at the grass-roots level of the Republican Party now view instability and a weakened government as desirable outcomes. Many of these legislators have mastered the extreme rhetoric that protects them from primary challenges and the clamour that satisfies the viewership needs of conservative media. Years of service no longer earn the benefits of committee chairmanships inside the GOP. One reason senior politicians criticising the need to “govern” aren’t convincing rabble-rousing members is because they don’t comprehend the issue as well as Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who led the eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy. Most obviously, Trump exemplifies this brand of stunt politics Republicanism by being the overwhelming favourite to win the Republican nomination for president in 2024, despite having been impeached twice, falsely claiming the 2020 election was stolen, and facing four criminal prosecutions.
Republican Party officials are embarrassed and want this shambles to end.
A candidate with minimal national name recognition but who could garner the least rancour from across the divided House GOP conference may have an opening if the party as a whole is simply exhausted. Until then, genuine Republicans in the House can only voice dismay as America’s enemies take pleasure in the decline of American democracy.
“This is one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever seen, since we can’t govern without a speaker of the House. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs from Texas, said as much on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
At a recent “Meet the Press” on NBC, McCarthy, who previously supported Jordan but now backs House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, warned that the current impasse cannot continue for much longer. The Republican Party should be ashamed of itself. The country’s shame has been brought to light, and the former speaker urged everyone to look inward to find a solution.
Emmer is one of nine Republican candidates vying for support before Tuesday’s anticipated secret ballot to select a speaker nominee. However, like McCarthy, the Minnesota Republican will have trouble winning over the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservatives who despise the Republican leadership.
Representatives make up the remaining candidates in a field that included no women. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the GOP conference vice chairman; Pete Sessions of Texas, a congressional veteran; Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, who chairs the influential Republican Study Committee; Jack Bergman of Michigan, a mainstream conservative and Marine veteran; Austin Scott of Georgia, who launched a last-minute bid against Jordan last week but quickly dropped out; Byron Donalds of Florida, a rising star Freedom Caucus member and one of the few Black Republicans in Congress;
Former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich, widely credited with inventing the highly partisan, hardball governing preferred by today’s GOP, recently warned that the charade could drag on for weeks unless party leaders picked anyone who could get to a House majority, regardless of who they were. With crucial federal funding and budget issues on the horizon, he said, the GOP must come together on more than just a new speaker.
That 217 needs to be dedicated to working together for the next five or six months, not only to pick a speaker. They have some tough choices ahead of them,” Gingrich said on Fox News. There’s a real chance that they’ll elect someone, and then a few weeks later, the same folks will blow their stacks and decide to go back into the same situation.
“They have to settle on somebody; they need consistency.”
The fiery Georgia Republican may have said those words, but the last three weeks have proved that the House GOP is neither capable of, or even wants to offer, stability.