Republicans held a debate with their two candidates for speaker of the House on Oct. 10 and emerged after two hours no closer to identifying the nominee to unite the divided conference.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both highly respected within the Republican conference, each spoke and responded to questions in the two-hour, closed-door session.
Attendees described the exchange as respectful and healthy but were not optimistic about quickly coming to an agreement on their next leader.
Asked about the chance of electing a nominee at their conference vote scheduled for 10:00 a.m. the next day, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) told reporters, “I’d say 2 percent.”
Both men have large bases of support among House Republicans, which can be traced to their lengthy tenure in House leadership.
“So much of this is personal relationships,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) told reporters after the forum. “People who serve on Jordan’s committee are very supportive of him. You have delegations, you have regional issues, you have people who have been here a long time … who know some of the historical tensions that exist.”
The challenge for Republicans is to come to an agreement promptly in the wake of a contentious vote last week to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a move precipitated by a tiny faction of Republicans in opposition to the will of the majority.
Difference, No Distinction
After the candidate forum, several Republican members noted little difference between the two.
Both would offer further support for the war in Ukraine only after seeing a clear strategy for victory from the White House. Both had plans for avoiding a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires on Nov. 17.
Mr. Jordan advanced a plan that included a longer-term continuing resolution with built-in spending cuts. Mr. Scalise favored passing conservative appropriations bills in the House and forcing the Senate to negotiate over them.
Both men were praised for their commitment to the Republican conference.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said, “There’s a very robust debate.” As to who would come out the winner, he said. “We’ll find out tomorrow.”
“A lot of people like Steve and a lot of people like Jim,” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) said. “I don’t know how you get to 218,” the number of votes needed to win the election.
The conference is so widely split at this point, according to Mr. Nehls, that if the vote went to a second or third ballot, Mr. McCarthy might come out ahead.
Mr. McCarthy told fellow Republicans not to nominate him for another run at the speaker’s chair.
The Unity Problem
Many Republicans have said they favor voting among themselves until they arrive at a nominee they will all support before venturing into an election on the House floor.
Though they hold a majority in the House, it took 15 ballots to elect Mr. McCarthy in January as a number of Republicans held out for concessions from the would-be speaker. Most Republicans want to avoid a repeat of that spectacle.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) floated the idea of beginning the process with secret ballots rather than a roll call vote. “I think we just need to see where everybody’s cards are and see what that first ballot indicates,” he said.
Others want to create a binding rule that would force all Republicans to support whichever candidate won a majority within the conference.
It’s doubtful that members would follow such a rule, even if passed. “I won’t do it,” Mr. Nehls said of the idea. “It’s a conference rule. It is not the House rule. “I’m just telling you, I won’t do it.”
Conference rules cannot prevent a member from voting his or her choice in the House, so there would be no mechanism for enforcing such a rule, according to Mr. Massie.
Although Mr. Scalise and Mr. Jordan are the only two candidates at the moment, that could change.
“I am not thrilled with either choice right now,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said after the forum. “I think someone else will come forward, and I don’t know who that is, and I’m not backing anybody. But I don’t know if it is just these two candidates.”
Both Mr. Scalise and Mr. Jordan are staunch conservatives. Both men supported objections to electoral college voting results when Congress met to certify Joe Biden’s election on Jan. 6, 2021.
Mr. Scalise, 57, has served in Congress since 2008. He has been involved in House leadership since 2013 when he chaired the Republican Study Committee, the largest of the five major Republican caucuses, before moving on to become majority whip and then majority leader. He is known as an effective fundraiser, a key responsibility as the party’s leader in the House.
Mr. Scalise has been criticized for speaking at a convention of white nationalists in 2002. Mr. Scalise said he was unaware of the group’s viewpoint when accepting the invitation.
“I have a proven track record of bringing together the diverse array of viewpoints within our Conference to build consensus where others thought it impossible,” Mr. Scalise wrote in a letter to colleagues announcing his candidacy.
“We have an extremely talented Conference, and we all need to come together and pull in the same direction to get the country back on the right track,” Mr. Scalise wrote. “Our strength as a Conference comes from our unity, and we have seen when we unite as a Conference, we can deliver wins for the American people.”
Mr. Jordan, 59, has served in Congress since 2007. He is a former college wrestling coach and state lawmaker in Ohio.
Mr. Jordan is a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, the most conservative of the five major Republican caucuses. He leads the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government and has been outspoken about the need for congressional oversight of the executive branch.
Critics have pointed out that he stonewalled the House select committee that investigated the events of Jan. 6 when subpoenaed to testify.
“I think we are a conservative-center-right party. I think I’m the guy who can help unite that. My politics are entirely consistent with where conservatives and Republicans are across the country,” Mr. Jordan said in an interview with CNN.
House Republicans will reconvene Oct. 11 at 8:30 a.m. for a classified briefing on the crisis in Israel, and proceed with voting for their nominee later in the morning.
From The Epoch Times