The race for House speaker can hardly be called a race - GulfToday

The race for House speaker can hardly be called a race

Eric Garcia


Eric Garcia is the Washington bureau chief and senior Washington Correspondent at the Independent.


Kevin McCarthy

The battle for Kevin McCarthy to save his speakership is over. The battle for the House Republican conference — and indeed, the entire House of Representatives — is about to begin. On Wednesday, the House GOP conference will convene to pick a new speaker. As of right now, the House has two major candidates: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the favoured pick of the establishment and a prolific fundraiser with a strong whipping operation; and Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH), a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus who has spent his 16 years in Congress as a hellraiser who appeals largely to the conservative base of the GOP.

Meanwhile, on Monday, after the news of Hamas’s assault on Israel which left hundreds dead, and Israel’s military response in Gaza, McCarthy seemed to crack the door open to once again returning to the speakership. Meanwhile, Democrats, despite internal divisions on a host of issues, are wholly united in supporting House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. But as of right now, there’s a brutal truth — nobody can get to the magic number of votes needed to become speaker. Here’s the math: Typically the House has 435 members but there are two vacant seats — one Democratic seat in Rhode Island and one Republican seat in Utah — meaning there are currently 433 members.

That means anyone who wants to become speaker needs to have a total of 217 votes, barring a member of Congress being absent or voting “present.” Rep Mary Peltola (D-AK) is currently out of Congress grieving the death of her husband, winnowing the number of votes down to 432. Republicans only have 221 members in their conference, meaning that only four Republicans can break away from their peers’ anointed speaker and spoil the plans. And a split field makes it impossible for any Republican to get a majority. The friends of Inside Washington over at Punchbowl News reported that three Republicans said they would not vote for anyone except Mr McCarthy. It would make sense given that two of them – Reps John Duarte (R-CA) and John Rutherford (R-FL) — hail from swing districts and would not want to cast their votes for Jordan, an archconservative who played a huge role in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

But McCarthy took himself out of the running on Tuesday because he has the same problem he faced last week and in truth, the problem he faced in January: He doesn’t have the votes. If anything, he’s losing them.

Similarly, Rep Ken Buck (R-CO), a member of the Freedom Caucus who backed Mr McCarthy last time but who shivved the speaker last week, and on Sunday said on ABC News that the party should unite around a candidate before going to the floor, avoiding a public spectacle like in January.

Scalise and Jordan still lack the sufficient votes, too. Friends of the newsletter Lindsey McPherson, Warren Rojas and Stephen Neukam over at The Messenger counted 43 votes for Jordan and 31 votes for Scalise as of Monday evening. As long as the two continue to stay in the race and unless some supporters defect to another camp, it’s hard to see them getting to 217. And for those wondering about Democrats, there is little to no chance that Jeffries will become speaker. Despite the fact that Republicans voted for the rules package that made the single-member motion to vacate possible, they are still angry at Democrats for joining Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and the seven other Republicans who deposed McCarthy. On the flip side, no Democrat has any incentive to clean up the GOP mess and get behind a consensus Republican candidate. The House might be without a speaker for weeks.

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