WASHINGTON: The Republican nominee to lead the US House of Representatives struggled on Thursday (Oct 12) to find enough support to win a vote of the full chamber, underlining the mountain he will have to climb to unite the deeply fractured party.
House Republicans picked Majority Leader Steve Scalise as their replacement for ousted speaker Kevin McCarthy in a secret ballot on Wednesday – but only by a narrow margin of 113-99 over hardline rival Jim Jordan.
With just a little over half of Republicans supporting Scalise, the party’s hopes for a moment of unity dissolved into more chaos and infighting, nine days after McCarthy’s unprecedented removal in a mutiny by right wing lawmakers.
No vote of the full House has been scheduled, but if every Democrat and Republican were present and casting ballots, Scalise would need 217 votes to prevail – a tall order, according to analysts.
A second public tussle for the speakership – nine months after McCarthy?s marathon, 15-round battle to win the gavel – could hardly have come at a worse time for the Republican-controlled lower chamber of Congress.
The leaderless House has been unable to pass any bills or approve White House requests for emergency aid, with Israel – the top US ally in the Middle East – in a war footing against Hamas militants.
Meanwhile lawmakers are staring down a looming government shutdown as they have only a month to agree on 2024 federal spending levels before the money runs out and have made no progress during the leadership crisis.
Scalise worked frantically to win over Jordan’s backers as Republicans met at midday, although the discussion appeared to produce more skeptics rather than new support.
“There is no consensus candidate for speaker. We need to stay in Washington till we figure this out,” Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna, who had endorsed Scalise, said in a social media post after the meeting.
“I will no longer be voting for Scalise. I don’t even think we make it to the floor.”