45 U.S. House Republicans seek to prevent another speaker ouster

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Forty-five allies of former U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are calling on their Republican colleagues for “fundamental changes” that would make it more difficult for a small faction to oust whoever may take his place.

As the slim 221-212 Republican majority in the House of Representatives prepares to select a replacement for McCarthy, the letter underscores the acrimony hovering over the stalled chamber as Congress approaches a new government shutdown deadline on Nov. 17.

The group, largely comprised of centrists, called for unspecified rule changes to ensure that a handful of Republicans will not be able to align with the chamber’s Democrats to vote out a speaker or block party priorities.

“We cannot allow our majority to be dictated to by the alliance between the chaos caucus and the minority party that will do nothing more than guarantee the failure of our next speaker,” they wrote.

Many of the signatories have already called for changing a rule that allows a single lawmaker to force a vote to remove the speaker.

Republicans are scheduled to vote for a nominee in a closed-door session on Wednesday, though it make take a while for them to settle on a candidate.

Two Republican lawmakers are campaigning to replace McCarthy: Representative Steve Scalise, who was second to McCarthy on the leadership ladder, and Representative Jim Jordan, an outspoken conservative who has led investigations into the Biden administration and has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.

At least one other, Representative Kevin Hern, has said he may run as well.

Jordan welcomed Trump’s endorsement and said he was talking to lawmakers to build support for his bid.

“We got all kinds of across-the-board support, and we’re just going to keep working,” he said on CNN.

President Joe Biden said on Friday that he will try to work with whoever becomes speaker, and called on Republicans to pass spending legislation for the federal government before current funding expires Nov. 17.

“It’s time to stop fooling around. House Republicans, it’s time for you to do your job,” Biden said at the White House.

McCarthy became the first House speaker in U.S. history to be ousted from the top congressional post on Tuesday, a few days after angering his hardline critics by relying on Democratic votes to pass a temporary spending bill that averted a government shutdown.

Representative Matt Gaetz, who led the effort to unseat McCarthy, now faces calls for his expulsion from the party conference.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Howard Goller and Nick Zieminski)