Washington, Oct 15 (IANS) The US House of Representatives still doesn’t have a Speaker.
That the position, which is considered second in line to the presidency, should be vacant at a time when the US is dealing with two wars — one that started earlier this week between Israel and the Hamas, and the other that has carried over from February 2022 between Russia and Ukraine — has frustrated many Republicans. And the words “clown”, “clown car” and “clown show” are used frequently by them for their fellow Republicans.
Some members have even suggested reinstating Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted by a section of the party. Others have floated a coalition speaker elected with bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats.
Some Republicans are angry with Democrats, accusing them of not bailing out McCarthy earlier by providing him the cushion the blow from his Republican colleagues. But the Democrats are in no mood to save the Republican party from its messy search for an individual to head the House.
The Israel-Hamas war has lent a sense or urgency to the search. Israel receives about $5 billion in security aid from the US every year. That amount stands approved by the congress.
But if the Biden administration needs extra funds, which is highly likely, it will need to go to the congress. In its present speaker-less form, the House may not be of much help. The chamber has not been able to even pass a resolution expressing support for Israel although members of both parties have openly backed Israel.
Even though President Joe Biden has extended full and unconditional support, Israel is unlikely to feel reassured on account of the headless House.
Especially so because the present frontrunner Jim Jordan, a populist lawmaker in the political mould of former President Donald Trump, will not inspire confidence about additional funding for this war effort. He has opposed continued aid to Ukraine, which has been promised US support for “as long as it takes” by Biden, and there has been a suggestion that the two aid packages — for Israel and Ukraine — be linked if and when the House resumes normal functioning.
Jordan has Trump’s endorsement. But he lost to Steve Scalise in a secret ballot to be the party’s nominee for speaker. But it’s a reflection of the state of affairs of the party that the man who beat Jordan, Steve Scalise, who is the party’s Majority Leader, a position that is No. 2 in hierarchy after speaker, has opted out of the race because he was not confident of getting the 217 votes needed to win the speakership.
Scalise is an establishment candidate and more likely to support aid for both Ukraine and Israel. He voted several times in favour of aid for Ukraine although he has been quiet about it lately; possibly because of rising resistance to it from the hard-right flank of the party.
In fact, one of the reasons for McCarthy’s downfall was a secret deal he was accused by his detractors to have struck with the White House. Scalise has been a vocal supporter of Israel and his speakership might have been more reassuring for Israel. But he has opted out of the race.
The US House of Representatives is in disarray, and the country has two wars on its hands.