The lower chamber of Congress has been in limbo for a week as Republicans struggle to find a new Speaker of the House following Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) historic ouster and announcement that he will not run again.
The House no.2, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have announce their candidacy for the speakership. But, neither candidate has emerged as a clear favorite in the race.
Jordan and Scalise are far-right lawmakers who may struggle to get a majority of the conference to support their bid to be the new speaker of the House.
However, Scalise’s health raises additional concerns about this ability to lead. The congressman was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year and is undergoing treatment.
“I was honest with Scalise, I think his health is an issue,” Rep. Ralph Norman told CNN. “I don’t want somebody who’s going to deteriorate in the job. This is a tough job. You’ve got to be everywhere. He feels confident he can do it and I trust his opinion, but I think Jim Jordan will end up getting it.”
McCarthy’s potential return
Further complicating things, ousted Speaker McCarthy has indicated he is open to running for the position again following the attack on Israel by Hamas terrorist militants over the weekend.
“The conference has to make a decision. I’m still a member. I’m going to continue to fight,” McCarthy told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday when asked about potentially seeking the gavel if the conference is deadlocked on the nominees. “Whatever the conference wants I will do. I think we need to be strong. I think we need to be united.”
But, McCarthy’s path back to the speakership is blocked because the eight Republican lawmakers who voted to oust him last week haven’t changed their position.
“Not a single person who voted against Kevin last week is of a different mind this week,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL.), who led the effort to oust McCarthy, told The Hill on Monday. “Plenty who voted for Kevin last week would never vote for him again.”
House Republicans held a two hour closed-door meeting on Monday night, which was unproductive. Lawmakers left that gathering still divided over the path forward. McCarthy reportedly did not attend.
The conference plans to go ahead with a forum on Tuesday where prospective candidates for new House speaker will make their case. GOP lawmakers will vote on a secret ballot on Wednesday for their nominee for House Speaker.
It’s also worth noting that even if the conference chooses a candidate for speaker it does not mean that candidate will get support from 218 of the 222 Republicans on the House floor.
War in Israel and shutdown looming
It is not clear when the House will hold an official election for the new speaker, despite pressure to select a new leader as soon as possible amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas militants and a looming government shutdown on Nov. 17.
Without a new House speaker, the lower chamber is left powerless and cannot pass any new legislation or package to aid Israel, a key U.S. ally, during the war.
The pressure arising from an ally at war with a terrorist group hasn’t increased the urgency on Republicans to reach a consensus on a new candidate for House Speaker. Neither Jordan nor Scalise have a lock on a majority of the conference to get to 218 votes. McCarthy, the only person to have gotten to 218, path to re-election for Speaker is basically blocked.
This means that the House could end up in another protracted fight for speaker–much like McCarthy’s four-days long battle– in January.