by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
It has now been almost two weeks since every Democrat in the House joined eight Republicans in ousting Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the speaker’s office. It does not appear that House Republicans are even a single step closer to picking a new leader.
Time is running out. The temporary spending authority that triggered the Republican malcontent’s coup against McCarthy runs out in four weeks. Congressional action to authorize aid to Israel in its fight against Hamas may come before then. When those deadlines approach, the House will have to vote to give temporary powers to Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-NC).
Why not just vote to give McHenry those powers now until someone in the Republican conference can find the 217 votes needed to become speaker?
The job of speaker, as long as Republicans hold their narrow majority, does not seem to be a job anybody wants. After McCarthy lost on the motion to vacate, he could have fought back, forcing vote after vote on the House floor until the dissenters caved in.
McCarthy had the stomach for this fight in January but had apparently lost it for an encore. Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) won the internal conference vote to be the next speaker Wednesday morning, but after an ill-considered rush for a floor vote Wednesday afternoon was abandoned, he dropped out of the race entirely on Thursday. He didn’t try to work the phones for even a weekend.
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) appears to be the Republican with the most support now, but his path to 217 seems no clearer than McCarthy’s or Scalise’s. Many in the conference feel that his efforts to help McCarthy and Scalise secure votes were less than half-hearted and barely concealed his efforts to sow discontent for his own ends. As the vote to vacate on McCarthy’s shows, it only takes a handful of members with personal vendettas to deny anyone the speaker’s chair.