© Reuters. The US Capitol is seen at night as Republicans work towards electing a new Speaker of the House on Capitol Hill in Washington, US on October 9, 2023. Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein/file photo
by David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans controlling the U.S. House of Representatives will try to move closer to choosing a successor to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday, amid growing pressure over war in the Middle East and another impending government shutdown.
The House Republican majority was to hold a closed-door hearing on at least two candidates for Congress’s top job — Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan — in a closed-door forum that evening, a day before party members would have to choose a candidate. There was hope of voting. By secret ballot.
Republicans hold a narrow 221-212 majority, making it possible for a handful of their members to oust McCarthy last week, and leading the caucus could be challenging for any new speaker.
While McCarthy was the first speaker to be voted out in a formal vote, the last two Republicans to hold the position left under pressure from party hardliners.
Before voting on the speaker, Republicans may first have to deal with other complex issues, including how to proceed on government funding for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 and whether to change the rule that limits how only one lawmaker can vote. allows for. Throw out McCarthy.
“Those are all points that members are talking about among themselves, and they have to harmonize and agree on them before we can move forward,” Republican representative French Hill told Reuters.
More than 90 Republicans have also called for a change in party rules that would require any candidate to have the support of 217 Republicans, enough to win election for speaker of the House despite Democratic opposition.
Jordan, a prominent hardline conservative backed by President Donald Trump, appeared to have an edge in support at Tuesday’s meeting. But Scalise was unlikely to fare any better with the Republican convention split, leaving each candidate short of the 218 votes needed to seize the gavel.
Scalise appears to have the support of many experienced and established Republicans, including party leaders, while Jordan received support from others, including Trump-style populists.
Representative Michael Cloud, a Jordan supporter, said, “The American people are looking for the status quo in Washington. If they see everyone just taking a step forward, I think that would be very disappointing.”
Other candidates could also emerge, including McCarthy, who enjoys support among many Republicans and made clear Monday that he would serve as speaker again if House Republicans asked him to do so.
After hard-liners subjected McCarthy to a tough round of 15 House floor votes before he was allowed to become speaker in January, Republicans are expected to win a clear majority to elect the next speaker, this time behind closed doors.
Lawmakers said the conference is likely to vote Tuesday on whether to adopt a new rule that would increase the limit to 217 candidates.
Some lawmakers warned that such a change could prove a new obstacle.
Representative Tom Cole said, “To me, this is empowering a small minority at the expense of the majority.” He told reporters that Republicans should instead support the candidate chosen by a simple majority of the convention.
The House cannot take action until a new Speaker is elected. That fact has put new pressure on Republicans after Israel declared war on Sunday following a rare attack by Hamas militants, which has prompted calls for more US military aid.
But not all House Republicans agreed that the chamber should move quickly to replace McCarthy, saying lawmakers are still reeling from the shock of his removal.
“The body is still warm,” said representative Max Miller. “We need an extra week to see who the candidates are who are going to be the leaders in our conference.”