Following the melodrama of the ouster of Speaker of
the House Kevin McCarthy two weeks ago, the
Republican majority have successively nominated
two members, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jim
Jordan of Ohio to succeed him, but failed in both cases
to produce the 217 votes necessary for election. Mr.
Jordan, after coming up short on three ballots,
suspended his effort, and said he would support electing
the current Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry of
North Carolina, thus giving him, albeit temporary,
expanded powers so that the House can resume doing
business over the next several weeks, including acting
on aid to Ukraine and Israel, as well as vote before the
new deadline to pass the national debt limit.
The ouster of Mr, McCarthy was made possible when,
to win the speakership, he agreed to a rule that only
a tiny group in his GOP caucus could remove him as
speaker. It was almost certain then that a few unhappy
GOP members would eventually take advantage of
this rule — and when Speaker McCarthy agreed to a
temporary delay in acting on the proposed budget
deficit, a small number of his Republican colleagues
moved successfully to remove him as speaker.
When GOP members then nominated Majority Leader
Steve Scalise to replace Mr. McCarthy as speaker,
the caucus failed to elect him, and subsequently
nominated Jim Jordan of Ohio to be the next speaker.
After three ballots, Mr. Jordan was several votes short
of what needed to be elected, and he then agreed to
suspend his effort, as already noted, and to vote to
give Mr. McHenry added powers so that the House
could resume its regular business over the next
This plan was rejected by the whole GOP caucus,
including canceling Mr, Jordan’s nomination.
The Republican majority is now back to its condition
just after Speaker McCarthy’s removal, i.e., no speaker
and no ability to conduct House business.
Several members have now announced they will run
for speaker, but no one yet appears to have the 217
votes necessary to win.
The Democratic minority has been united in casting its
212 votes for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on every
ballot so far, and have understandably painted the GOP
majority as dysfunctional.
Speaker Pro Tem McHenry probably has enough votes
to expand his powers so that the House could function
through January, but he has so far refused to serve in
any capacity beyond his current duties to preside over
the vote for a permanent speaker.
The GOP caucus has not yet rescinded the rule that one
member can move to vacate the speakership, and with as
few as five other members, force a speaker to step down.
If this is not done, it seems impossible for the Republican
majority to function going forward.
As the days go by, and the next deficit deadline approaches,
as does the necessity of the House to act also on critical
legislation regarding aid to Ukraine and Israel, the political
damage to the prospects for the Republican Party in general
in 2024, and the re-election of GOP members, worsens.
If not resolved very soon, it becomes a spectacle unworthy
of a party which seeks to govern the nation in 2025.
Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.