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House Republicans begin voting on nominee for Speaker


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House Republicans have started voting for their nominee for Speaker, amid a growing sense of urgency to determine who will lead the lower house and address pressing issues on the US’s domestic and international agendas.

Steve Scalise, the House majority leader, and Jim Jordan, who chairs the judiciary committee, made their cases to colleagues in a closed-door forum on Tuesday evening, although neither candidate was in a position to claim the upper hand ahead of Wednesday’s conference vote.

The two rival candidates are vying for support on the private ballot, after eight rebels led an unprecedented revolt against Kevin McCarthy last week.

Ken Buck, a Republican from Colorado, told the FT he voted “present” for Speaker after neither Scalise nor Jordan adequately answered his question on Tuesday about who won the 2020 presidential election. “It’s a yes or no question,” he said.

“I don’t think anybody has 217 [votes],” Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene said on Tuesday night. “If it comes out that neither one of them can get there, then yes, we’re going to have to produce another candidate.”

For Republicans, the lack of a clear outcome risks a replay of events in January, when it took a record 15 rounds of voting for the party to elect McCarthy as Speaker.

More broadly, the abrupt downfall of the former Speaker last week has created chaos in the House. The lower chamber is at a standstill, unable to pass legislation, as the US weighs whether to provide additional aid to Israel and Ukraine in their respective conflicts with Hamas and Russia. Lawmakers must also pass a spending bill by November 17 to avoid a US government shutdown.

House Republicans will choose between Scalise, who has climbed up the leadership ladder for the past decade, and Jordan, whom former Republican House Speaker John Boehner once described as a “legislative terrorist”.

From 2011 to 2021, Jordan voted against several deals to end debt ceiling crises, before supporting the 2023 agreement, which suspended the limit on federal debt through January 1, 2025 and curbed spending.

McCarthy later managed to bring Jordan into the fold by giving him top posts on the powerful oversight and judiciary committees. 

Scalise is pitching himself as a conservative who can put coalitions together. He garnered national attention in 2017, when he survived a shooting at a practice before the annual congressional baseball game. Scalise is viewed as a more traditional Republican on national security issues, and more likely than Jordan to support additional aid to Ukraine in its war against Russia.

House armed services chair Mike Rogers told the Financial Times he would support Scalise. “I think he’s the guy who can unify us and get the votes that we need,” Rogers said.

Jordan has the edge in public endorsements from House Republicans, and the support of former president Donald Trump, but is still far from winning over a majority of the House. Scalise has had health concerns, but has raised millions more than Jordan in campaigns to win and hold the House.

Although several House Republicans have said they would vote for McCarthy to become Speaker again, he has urged colleagues not to put his name forward. He would not tell reporters who he supported to succeed him.



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