The US House of Representatives is entering its third week with no leader after right-wing Republicans ousted the former speaker, leaving the body unable to take action on key issues including the wars in Ukraine and Israel-Palestine.
Former House Speaker McCarthy was voted out on October 3 after angering far-right members of his own party by partnering with Democrats to pass a debt ceiling bill that narrowly averted a government shutdown.
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Ever since, the fiercely divided House, which requires a majority vote from present members to select its leader, has been unable to coalesce around a new speaker. The dysfunction means it likely cannot pass bills or greenlight resolutions needed to direct aid overseas.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican from Georgia, said the picture looks dire and advocated awarding more powers to Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry to ease the crisis.
“We can’t sit around and suck our thumbs and hope the world will wait until the House Republicans get their act together,” he told Fox News.
On Tuesday, right-wing Republican Jim Jordan fell short in his first bid for the position by 17 votes, with 20 of his own party members defecting. All 212 Democrats in the body cast their ballots for their party’s Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
Jordan is set to push forward with a second bid for the leadership role on Wednesday, but it remains unclear if he has built up enough additional support to come out on top.
At least one Republican who voted against Jordan on Tuesday, Representative Doug LaMalfa, agreed to support his bid in the second round, but that would still leave him far short of the 17 additional votes he needs. The House was set to convene at 11:00am EST (15:00 GMT) for the vote.
Jordan, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee who was endorsed by former US President Donald Trump, will be expected to show significant progress. But the holdouts appear to be dug in.
Jordan’s Republican opponents met after voting against him and nearly all reaffirmed their objections, with some predicting he could lose another 10 Republicans.
The Ohio lawmaker has little of the goodwill among the rank and file that McCarthy spent years cultivating, and it is unlikely that they would indulge him in the 15 rounds of voting that it took to get his predecessor elected.
There is momentum behind a push to appoint caretaker Speaker McHenry for a limited period – expanding his purely ceremonial powers so that he can bring legislation to the floor.
Lawmakers are expected to vote on a motion to formally elect McHenry – probably until the end of the year or until a permanent speaker is elected – if the second speaker vote doesn’t go Jordan’s way.
“After two weeks without a speaker of the House and no clear candidate with 217 votes in the Republican conference, it is time to look at other viable options,” Ohio congressman Dave Joyce said in a statement reported by the political newspaper The Hill.
“By empowering Patrick McHenry as Speaker Pro Tempore we can take care of our ally Israel until a new Speaker is elected.”
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies