U.S. House Republicans nominate Steve Scalise for speaker amid deep divisions

(Xinhua) 08:18, October 12, 2023

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. House Republicans on Wednesday nominated House Majority Leader Steve Scalise for speaker in a closed-door voting amid deep divisions, paving the way for a floor vote in the chamber to elect a new speaker after Kevin McCarthy's historical ouster last week.

Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, won the nomination in a 113-99 vote over Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

The vote came after the unprecedented ouster of McCarthy, who was booted out of his position on Tuesday last week, in a move initiated by a member of his own party. It marked the first time in U.S. history that a House speaker has been voted out of office in the middle of a term.

A win of only 14 votes by Scalise indicated the deep divisions among House Republicans, who now need to unite behind the Louisiana Republican in order to reach the required simple majority threshold in the chamber to elect a speaker, as Republicans hold a slim 221-212 majority.

Despite Scalise winning the Republican conference vote, several Republican lawmakers said they still plan to support Jordan on the House floor, raising uncertainty as to whether Scalise would be able to garner enough House Republican votes to actually become speaker.

Scalise announced his cancer diagnosis earlier this year and said he would be undergoing "several months" of treatment for the disease, leading some to doubt whether he is fit to lead, and others to praise his personal courage.

"A messy floor fight may be ahead, with a number of Republicans already noncommittal about supporting Scalise," The Hill reported.

The House convened Wednesday afternoon, but Speaker Pro Tempore Representative Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, quickly called the chamber to recess after gaveling.

"The speaker designee has the right to put his votes together for the floor and make sure the timing is right, so we're gonna let that happen," McHenry said.

House Republicans will certainly try to avoid a repeat of McCarthy's speaker election in January, when he clawed his way to victory by cutting a deal with conservatives after 15 rounds of voting.

For their part, House Democrats unanimously renominated House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in a closed door meeting Tuesday night.

The House can't move forward on its legislative process until a speaker is chosen, and lawmakers need to pass a spending bill before government funding runs out in mid-November. The House is also under pressure to take action following the escalated Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"Until a speaker is elected there's not going to be anything meaningful happening in the House, and the clock is ticking on the 45 days the government will stay open," Christopher Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua.

"It's really, really important that this Congress get back to work," Scalise said, noting that a strong resolution expressing support for Israel would be his priority if elected speaker.

While the U.S. government narrowly dodged a partial shutdown and the House ousted its speaker for the first time in history, a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe Washington politicians cannot put aside their partisan differences to do their jobs.

Onlookers abroad "see an American political system lurching down the path of dysfunction and a legislature increasingly dominated by politicians uninterested in actual governance or democratic deliberation," said an analysis titled "Chaos in Congress points to failures in the U.S. system" and published on The Washington Post last week.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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