Republicans, whose party infighting has paralyzed the U.S. House of Representatives for three weeks, will begin again on Monday to try to pick a new speaker to lead the chamber and address funding needs for Israel, Ukraine and the federal government.
Factional strife between right-wing hardliners and more mainstream Republicans led to the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Oct. 3 and derailed leadership bids by two would-be successors: No. 2 House Republican Steve Scalise and prominent conservative Jim Jordan.
The leadership vacuum has stymied congressional action as it faces a Nov. 17 deadline to avoid a government shutdown by extending federal agency funding, and a request from President Joe Biden to approve military aid for Israel and Ukraine.
“This is probably one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Republican, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “We’re essentially shut down as a government.”
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The task of choosing a new Republican nominee for the job of House speaker begins again on Monday at 6:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT), when nine declared candidates, including No. 3 House Republican Tom Emmer, will appear at a closed-door candidate forum.
McCarthy has endorsed Emmer, stressing his experience in working to marshal party votes on major legislation since January, when Republicans became the majority party in the House.
“This is not a moment in time to play around with learning on the job,” McCarthy told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” although he added: “It’s going to be an uphill battle.”
With a narrow majority of 221-212 in the House, it is not clear whether any Republican can get the 217 votes needed to claim the speaker’s gavel.
Any candidate nominated by the party conference can afford to lose no more than four Republicans when the full House votes, and the conference is split over spending cuts, Ukraine funding and other hot-button issues.
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Matt Gaetz, the Republican who initiated McCarthy’s ouster, complained to reporters that Jordan was “knifed by secret ballot” after the conference voted late last week to end his bid for speaker.
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Jordan tried and failed three times to win a floor vote inside the House. He had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who is a clear favorite to win the party’s nomination to run again as president in 2024.
Democrats described Jordan as a dangerous extremist and opponents inside his own party were angered by a pressure campaign from his supporters that resulted in death threats.
Sevenof the nine new candidates for speaker – Jack Bergman, Byron Donalds, Kevin Hern, Mike Johnson, Dan Meuser, Gary Palmer and Pete Sessions – voted to overturn Trump’s 2020 loss to President Joe Biden on the day that Trump supporters assaulted Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
The two remaining candidates, Emmer and Austin Scott, did not vote to block certification of the election results.
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House Republicans have been embroiled in chaos all year. McCarthy needed an agonizing 15 votes to win the speaker’s gavel in January, and along the way had to made concessions that enabled a single member to force a vote for his removal.
That happened this month when eight Republicans forced him out after he passed legislation with Democratic support that averted a partial government shutdown.
Investors say the tumult has contributed to market turbulence and Biden has urged Republicans to sort out their problems.