The inability of the Republican majority to reorganize after the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker is paralyzing the United States government at a critical point in time.
House Republicans today nominated Tom Emmer to be their candidate for speaker, but the Minnesotan dropped out just hours later when it became clear he could not secure the 217 votes needed to win the gavel in a House floor vote.
The House is scheduled to reconvene at noon Wednesday, which is the earliest a speaker could be elected by the full chamber.
Rep. Jim Jordan faced an uphill fight to claim the speaker’s gavel, needing 217 of the 221 Republicans to vote for a pugnacious conservative who had turned off dozens of veteran GOP lawmakers who prefer a reassuring steady hand.
What transpired, instead, was a career-defining flameout that burned so many bridges Jordan might never again have a chance to be speaker. After 200 Republicans voted for him in an initial public roll call, his support slipped in each successive vote and he surrendered after an unsuccessful third ballot on the House floor.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s lifelong dream of being speaker of the House was dashed by the hardball tactics of a group of über-conservatives — including former President Donald Trump — with assists from former Speaker McCarthy and U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, a colleague in Louisiana’s GOP delegation.
Scalise’s GOP detractors sought to undermine him with questions – some whispered, some broadcast — about his fitness for the job in public statements.
Trump, who endorsed Jordan, started a rumor that was echoed by other Republicans, suggesting that Scalise was too sick with cancer to serve.
A speech he gave to a gathering of White supremacists in 2002 had never created serious problems within the GOP caucus for Scalise— was suddenly a career-killer and his opposition to proposed rules that would have changed generations of tradition on how a speaker is chosen was held up as a sign of his self-interest.
Graves undercut Scalise’s campaign, which would have put him behind the vice president in the presidential succession. On the evening of Oct. 12, Scalise withdrew from the race.
That has left the U.S. House of Representatives unable to do its work, paralyzing the entire legislative branch of government, because legislation can’t pass without a functioning Congress.
The speaker of the House of Representatives is a powerful position with an outsized role in lawmaking. According to the rules of the House, the speaker is “the presiding officer of the House and is charged with numerous duties and responsibilities by law and by the House rules.”
The speaker calls the House to order, refers bills to committees, appoints committee members, rules on points of order and recognizes members on the floor. These duties and responsibilities keep the House engaged in considering and passing bills.
In short, the speaker is critical to the administration of House business.
Under the Presidential Succession Act, passed to supplement Article 2 of the Constitution, the speaker also stands second in line to the presidency, after the vice president, in the event of the president’s incapacity.
For now, the House is presided over by a temporary speaker, U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina, but scholars and experts are divided about whether the House rules allow the person in that role to fulfill all the critical duties of the speakership.
Because the situation is unprecedented and because the rules are ambiguous, McHenry appears reluctant to exercise anything other than the minimal powers necessary to elect a new speaker.
Thus the House remains in limbo, with action needed as budget deadlines loom and a war between Israel and Hamas threatens to spread to other fronts. As a scholar of both constitutional law and politics, I believe the U.S. could be viewed as in constitutional crisis – a crisis that, if it does not end, could provoke larger crises ahead.
House Republicans today nominated Tom Emmer of Minnesota to be their candidate for speaker, but he dropped out just hours later when it became clear he could not secure the 217 votes needed to win the gavel in a House floor vote.
The House Republican majority is stuck, three weeks after McCarthy’s ouster, with lawmakers unable to coalesce around a new leader in a stalemate that threatens to keep Congress partly shuttered indefinitely.
A group of eight House Republicans initiated the a historic vote to remove McCarthy and they were joined by all Democrats in a historic vote to remove the Republican speaker in a 216-210 vote.
A nominee must secure 217 votes on the House floor to be elected, which has proved impossible for the GOP, although there are 221 Republicans in the House.
While the factions divided over who should be the leader are sometimes called conservative and moderate, the truth is there are a number of bizarre extremists that hold sway.
“We have three parties in Congress, not two: the Freedom Caucus Party, the Old Republican Party and the Democrats. The last one has the most members, so it should have the House speakership,” said Danielle Allen, a Harvard University professor of political philosophy, ethics, and public policy.
A common sense compromise would be political suicide for any Republican who approaches the Democrats—who have 214 members in the chamber—but if three GOP members muster an ounce of patriotism, Hakeem Jeffries will emerge as speaker.
The Trump Republicans stand for disruption and despair, which is different than the goals of those who are Americans as well as members of this newfangled Republican Party.
Trumpanzees such as Senate candidate Kari Lake of Arizona show no respect for the Constitution or reality.
Republicans like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis want to force everyone to conform to a single set of cultural values and beliefs, by law.
Republicans like Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert want to accumulate as much power as possible for themselves, without caring how that power affects the people they represent.
The GOP communicates no desire serve the country, which comes as no surprise to anyone who has witness its tolerance of treason and terrorism. While this condition should be fatal to any political party, for reasons beyond understanding, much of the electorate is in cahoots with those that seek to advance themselves by making everyone else miserable enough to take out their frustration on the few remaining grown ups in the room.