Congressional Republicans are hoping to elect a new speaker to the House of Representatives after days of furious behind-the-scenes politicking after last week’s brutal ousting of the previous incumbent, .
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After nominating Louisiana congressman on Wednesday, the Republican party is hoping to build consensus before heading to a final vote.
The ballot comes amid fierce criticism – including from some Republicans – that the GOP’s bitter internal divisions has left Congress’s lower chamber rudderless at a time when urgent decisions are needed regarding US emergency funding for Israel after Saturday’s deadly attack by the Palestinian group Hamas.
How has the House been left without a speaker?
In brief, because McCarthy made history in an unwanted way by becoming the first speaker ever to be voted out of the role, thanks to a rebellion from his own side.
Having only assumed his post last January after undergoing an agonising 15 ballots, he lost the speaker’s gavel when one of his fiercest critics from his own party, , made good on multiple threats to remove him by forcing a vote on a motion to vacate the speaker’s office. Gaetz, a congressman from Florida and member of the pro-Donald Trump far-right Freedom Caucus, was acting in protest against McCarthy’s last minute deal with Democrats to avert a government shutdown.
Although most Republicans supported McCarthy – with only eight of his own party members, including Gaetz, voting against – he lost his post because Democrats opted to remain unified in voting agains him.
Trump, the former president and Republican frontrunner for next year’s presidential election, was reportedly instrumental in the efforts to remove McCarthy.
What happens next?
The GOP held an internal party ballot on Wednesday to decide which candidate would be proposed before a vote on the floor of the House in which Scalise prevailed against Ohio congressman Jim Jordan.
But there are still many holdouts – including Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia and Nancy Mace of South Carolina that are blocking Scalise’s path to speakership. Some say they will still vote only for Jordan, the Trump-backed candidate. Scalise spent Wednesday evening meeting them one by one to try and make progress.
Republicans are hoping to avoid what the long drawn out drama of McCarthy’s election by only voting when there’s near-certainty of choosing a successor.
Who is Steve Scalise?
Steve Scalise, is the No 2 ranking Republican in the House. The 57-year-old Louisiana congressman and former chief whip has the merits of an inspiring personal backstory. He overcame serious gunshot wounds suffered in a 2017 shooting, when a gunman angered by Trump’s 2016 election opened fire on a Republican congressional baseball team practice. More recently, he has undergone chemotherapy.
A noted conservative and ally of the fossil fuel industry, he was overshadowed by controversy after it was revealed that in 2002 he spoke at a meeting of a white nationalist group founded by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Separately, he was quoted as referring to himself as “David Duke without the baggage”.
When will the full House vote on a new speaker?
Still unknown. The Republicans’ goal is to pick a candidate whom the entire group can coalesce around without a repeat of the multiple-ballot saga that ushered in – and, ultimately, fatally undermined – McCarthy’s speakership. This will not be easy and may even prove impossible.
As a result, no formal House vote on the speakership has yet been scheduled on the calendar.
Why does this affect aid to Israel?
Because the current temporary speaker, Patrick McHenry, put the House into recess last week – before Hamas’s weekend attack – to enable the Republican conference to thrash out who should be McCarthy’s successor, thus putting other issues on hold. Hence accusations – from one of the GOP’s own number, Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, in comments to CNN – that removing the speaker has “paralysed democracy … when we have these hotspots all over the world”.