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House Republicans acknowledge they are unable to govern

Rep. Steve Scalise, their nominee to replace Speaker Kevin McCarthy, withdrew Thursday due to lack of GOP support.

By Josh Israel - October 13, 2023
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House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., talks to reporters as he announces he is ending his campaign to be the next House speaker, after a Republican meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., talks to reporters as he announces he is ending his campaign to be the next House speaker, after a Republican meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Days after the Republican-led House of Representatives ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the majority party is unable to agree on a replacement, and the chamber is effectively paralyzed. Many House Republicans are now openly acknowledging that their caucus is incapable of basic governance.

In a secret ballot on Wednesday, the GOP caucus nominated current House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) to be the new speaker by a vote of 113-99 over Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. But on Thursday, after it became apparent that Scalise did not have enough votes to win the required majority in the full House, he withdrew from the race. No other Republican appears to have sufficient support to win the job either.

“These guys want to be in the minority,” Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon complained to CNN on Friday. “That’s it exactly. I think they would prefer that because they can just vote no and yell and scream all the time. And governing, you’ve got to work together.”

“It makes us look like a bunch of idiots,” Georgia Rep. Austin Scott told the network.

Since the House voted to remove McCarthy on Oct. 3, North Carolina Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry has been serving as speaker pro tempore, with very limited powers. The House has considered no legislation or other business as Republicans try to agree on a permanent speaker.

Unless the House passes legislation to address it in the next four weeks, federal government funding will expire, and all nonessential functions of the government will shut down. President Joe Biden is also seeking emergency funds for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan and for border security, which will require congressional approval.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) has proposed a bipartisan coalition to govern the chamber together. But instead of compromising, Republicans are attacking each other publicly over the chaos.

“I see a lot of threats out there, but one of the biggest threats I see is in that room because we can’t unify as a conference and put a speaker in the chair to govern,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) told reporters on Thursday, noting the urgency of funding to combat Hamas. “We’re playing with fire.”

Since the start of the 118th Congress, the GOP majority has been dysfunctional, requiring 15 attempts to elect a speaker, failing to pass even much of their promised “ready-to-go” legislation for the first two weeks, focusing on impeachments and right-wing social issues instead of on bills that would benefit their constituents, and canceling floor votes due to intraparty feuding.

“We really need to get our act together,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), according to the Hill. ”This is a continuation of a pretty dysfunctional disease of the 118th.”

Johnson blamed the problem in part on the GOP’s narrow five-vote majority, though with an identical margin in the 117th Congress, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Democratic majority were able to enact hundreds of laws. Those include historic investments in infrastructure, health care, and clean energy; a bipartisan gun safety compromise; support for domestic microchip manufacturing and scientific research; protections for same-sex and interracial marriage; and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

“We are a broken conference,” Texas Rep. Tony Nehls told reporters on Thursday.

According to HuffPost, Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly compared his caucus to a football team that lines up but never snaps the ball, lamenting, “This is the worst team I’ve ever been on.”

“It does seem like we’ve opened the Pandora’s Box of unrestrained ambition. People feel no loyalty to this institution,” said Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallager, according to Bloomberg.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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