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11 Oct, 2023 20:57

US Republicans name new candidate for speaker

Steve Scalise narrowly beat Jim Jordan to land the nomination, but faces opposition from within his own party
US Republicans name new candidate for speaker

Republican lawmakers have selected Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise as their candidate for House speaker. Scalise narrowly defeated Trump-endorsed conservative Jim Jordan to clinch the nomination, but will need to win over all of Jordan’s backers to secure the role.

Scalise beat Jordan by 113 votes to 99 in a closed-door meeting of GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Shortly after the vote, Jordan announced that he would support Scalise when his nomination was brought to a vote by the full house.

Scalise needs 217 votes to assume the speakership. With the Republican Party holding 221 seats in the House, the Louisiana lawmaker can only afford four defections, and while many of the 99 Republicans who backed Jordan have said they would support Scalise, some remain unconvinced.

Among them are hardline conservative Marjorie Taylor-Greene of Georgia, who declared on social media that she “voted for Jim Jordan for Speaker on a private ballot in conference, and will be voting for Jim Jordan on the House floor.” Greene cited Jordan’s opposition to military aid for Ukraine as one of the key reasons she supported the Ohio congressman.

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jordan is currently leading the GOP’s investigation into President Joe Biden’s allegedly corrupt foreign dealings. He favors reduced government spending, tougher border security, and a dramatic reduction or cutoff of aid to Ukraine. These positions, coupled with his defense of former President Donald Trump during two Democrat-led impeachment inquiries, earned him Trump’s endorsement for the job last week.

Scalise is closer aligned with the GOP’s mainstream, and broadly favors continued aid to Kiev. In a speech following Wednesday’s vote, he said that his first act as speaker would be to pass a resolution in support of Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas militants. 

The House has been without a speaker since last Tuesday, when Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz – a close ally of Jordan – called a vote to sack California Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the position. Gaetz accused McCarthy of kowtowing to the Democratic Party by attempting to pass an expansive spending bill and cutting “a secret side-deal” with Biden to keep funding the Ukrainian military.

Without a speaker, legislation cannot be passed, and more funding for Ukraine or Israel therefore cannot be authorized. Although Jordan, Gaetz, and a growing number of Republicans oppose further aid to Kiev, the White House is reportedly considering tying aid to both nations together in a single bill in order to ensure that the resolutely pro-Israel GOP also keeps the weapons flowing into Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that the US was “running out of runway” to send more aid to Israel, and will need Congress to allocate additional funds in the immediate future.