House Republicans head into a speaker election Wednesday without clarity on how long it will take to agree on a new leader, sowing uncertainty about funding the US government and aid to Ukraine and Israel.
(Bloomberg) — House Republicans head into a speaker election Wednesday without clarity on how long it will take to agree on a new leader, sowing uncertainty about funding the US government and aid to Ukraine and Israel.
Representative Tom Massie of Kentucky emerged from a closed-door meeting of House Republicans Tuesday evening putting the chances that his fractious party settles on a nominee for speaker in the Wednesday vote at “2%” because many members have entrenched views about their preferred candidate.
Another member echoed that sentiment early Wednesday, saying no candidate had the necessary 217 votes to win the job on the House floor.
The House has been leaderless and unable to handle normal business since a band of eight dissident Republicans joined with Democrats last week to topple House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The ouster has further fanned tensions in a divided party that dragged out McCarthy’s election in January through 15 votes.
The drama is playing out as the federal government operates under temporary funding due to expire after Nov. 17, Ukraine looks to the US for more aid to sustain its counteroffensive against Russia and Israel is under attack.
The two declared candidates to replace McCarthy, No. 2 House Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana and the hardline Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, addressed Republican lawmakers on their views at the Tuesday evening closed-door meeting.
Both Scalise and Jordan said in the meeting that the House will probably have to pass another temporary measure to fund the government because of lost time in negotiating annual spending plans, several lawmakers said. Jordan told Republicans a short-term bill might last until April to give the House time to pass full-year funding.
Temporary funding legislation will be a controversial proposal for the hardliners who voted to depose McCarthy, many of whom cited his support for a short-term spending deal as a reason to remove him.
Lawmakers leaving the meeting suggested there was no consensus on who should lead the party.
“I don’t think there’s a clear frontrunner,” said Representative Troy Nehls, a Texas Republican.
Nonetheless, Scalise projected confidence on Wednesday, telling Fox News his support had been growing.
“I feel like we have the votes to do it. And not only to do it, to do it today, to go upstairs on the House floor, get 218 votes, and then get back to work for the people who elected us,” he said.
Even the rules on how to pick a Republican nominee for speaker are now in doubt.
Nearly half of all House GOP lawmakers want to increase the threshold for their party to nominate a speaker. Current rules require a majority vote, but a new proposal would require support from 217 Republicans, virtually all lawmakers in the party.
That would assure a nominee has enough votes to win a vote in the full House, avoiding a repeat of the 15 rounds of voting it took to elect McCarthy. Republicans plan to vote on the rule change Wednesday before casting ballots to nominate a speaker.
New candidates could emerge if no one is able to gain enough support. McCarthy on Monday hinted he would be willing to return as speaker but then Tuesday pivoted to say he had instructed allies not to nominate him.
–With assistance from Steven T. Dennis, Maeve Sheehey and Justin Sink.
(Updates with new Scalise comments, lawmaker comments)
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