U.S. House Republicans pick speaker nominee amid deep divisions, dysfunctional Congress

By Xiong Maoling (Xinhua) 09:35, October 13, 2023

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- U.S. House Republicans on Wednesday nominated House Majority Leader Steve Scalise for speaker after Kevin McCarthy's historical ouster last week, but deep intraparty divisions could prevent the nominee from gaining enough support needed to win a vote of the full chamber.

Since the start of this year, the country has witnessed the historic 15-ballot floor fight in the election of a House speaker, former President Donald Trump facing multiple criminal charges, the criminal charges against President Joe Biden's second son Hunter Biden, and the ouster of a sitting House speaker, all of which are unprecedented.

With the House paralyzed and Congress in limbo, observers are increasingly concerned about the flaws of the U.S. political system, and Americans are losing confidence in the government, dissatisfied and even disgusted with the so-called "American-style democracy".


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 historical 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 -- hardline Republican Representative Matt Gaetz.

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.

"A messy floor fight may be ahead, with a number of Republicans already noncommittal about supporting Scalise," The Hill reported. "The unsettled situation reflected deep rifts in the G.O.P. that could prolong the race and lead to a drawn-out fight on the House floor," according to an article by The New York Times.

House Republicans certainly want 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.

That's why Speaker Pro Tempore Representative Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, quickly called the chamber to recess Wednesday afternoon, offering more time for the speaker nominee to put his votes together for the floor.

"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 earlier.

The House is also under pressure to take action following the escalated Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Scalise already said that a strong resolution expressing support for Israel would be his priority if elected speaker.


Looking back at McCarthy's nine-month speaker tenure, he won the speaker race after a grueling 4 days and 15 rounds of voting and was removed quickly from the position after eight conservative Republicans' betrayal. McCarthy has certainly "made history."

But he is not alone. Trump is facing multiple charges, including for allegedly attempting to overturn the 2020 election, becoming the first former president to be criminally indicted in U.S. history. Hunter Biden was indicted on gun and tax-related charges, becoming the first child of a sitting president to be criminally indicted.

Chaos seems to be a "new normal," and even those who are no strangers to partisan fights are astounded. "I never thought anything like this could happen in America," Trump said. Commenting on McCarthy's ouster, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said it was a "sad day."

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.

In an article titled "How Do Americans Feel About Politics? 'Disgust Isn't a Strong Enough Word'" recently published on The New York Times, authors argued that over the past week, the pandemonium of a narrowly averted government shutdown and leadership coup in the Republican-controlled House "confirmed many Americans' most cynical feelings about the federal government."

In an analysis titled "Chaos in Congress points to failures in the U.S. system" published on The Washington Post, the author argued that the concerns harbored by onlookers abroad grow far deeper.

"They 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," the article said.

"America's political institutions are not working effectively. This has been true for many years, but the dysfunctionality is becoming greater," Jeffrey Sachs, a professor and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, told Xinhua.

"The main problem, in my view, is the corruption of U.S. politics by big money, especially by large-scale corporate lobbying and large-scale campaign funding by wealthy individuals and corporate donors," said Sachs.

"The result is that Congress and the White House pursue policies that are not in the public interest, but in the interest of particular lobbies, such as the military-industrial complex or particular industries," said the renowned economist, adding that this leads to increasing tensions within the United States since the general public has "little confidence" in the government.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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