House Republicans Face Division and Turmoil in Presidential Election
WASHINGTON (CNN) – As dangerous global crises continue to unfold in Israel and Ukraine, House Republicans must work to repair the deep divisions within their conference if they hope to elect a new president. Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, the two declared candidates, will need to demonstrate their ability to control or co-opt the hardliners who ousted Kevin McCarthy last week. The party’s dysfunction is making the United States look like a failing superpower that cannot govern itself, let alone lead in a world in turmoil.
Republicans are set to hold secret internal elections this Wednesday to determine their presidential candidate. However, despite the severity of external events, the party remains mired in endless internal conflict. Serious doubts persist about whether Scalise or Jordan can obtain the necessary overwhelming support from the Republican conference in an eventual floor vote.
The House GOP’s dysfunction is not only hindering their ability to respond to global crises but also jeopardizing the country’s ability to avoid another government shutdown, scheduled for next month. The minuscule Republican majority in the House means that a presidential candidate can only lose four Republican votes and still win the gavel in a House-wide vote. Democrats, refusing to save McCarthy from a revolt by eight hardliners last week, have nominated their leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, as their candidate for House speaker.
House Republicans met on Tuesday night as Jordan and Scalise made their arguments. The situation remains tense, with some lawmakers expressing uncertainty about either candidate’s chances. Rep. David Valadao of California said it could be difficult for Scalise or Jordan to win outright, while Rep. Mike Garcia of California put the chances of selecting a new speaker at 50%. Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida went even further, stating that “no one is close to 217,” the number needed to secure the speakership.
The division within the Republican Party reflects a fundamental ideological fault line. Far-right Republicans are demanding massive spending cuts, failing to recognize the need for compromise due to Democratic control of the White House and Senate. McCarthy’s fall from the speakership occurred after he used Democratic votes to pass a stopgap bill to keep the government open, fearing the political ramifications of a shutdown.
The question now is whether Scalise or Jordan can rally enough support before the floor vote, which could take place as early as Wednesday. Republicans are conducting the initial process behind closed doors to avoid a public display of disorder, as seen during the 15 rounds of voting that McCarthy needed to secure the top job in January. They will debate and vote on a proposed change to conference rules to raise the threshold for winning the nomination, as part of an effort to avoid similar theatrical proceedings.
Both Jordan and Scalise pledged to support each other if they become the nominee, lawmakers said after Tuesday’s candidate forum. While Jordan has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, Scalise is seen as a more moderate choice and has a track record of fundraising success. However, if neither candidate gains enough support, a compromise candidate could emerge.
Regardless of who becomes the next speaker, they will face relentless pressure from a divided balance of power in Washington and a Republican Party that has struggled to provide long-term governance. The victor will also have to decide whether to change the rule allowing any member to call a vote to remove the president, something McCarthy offered to hardliners earlier this year.
Time is running out for House Republicans to unite and address both internal divisions and pressing global issues. Failure to do so will not only undermine the country’s ability to respond effectively to crises but also further expose the dysfunction of the Republican Party, which could have detrimental effects on their chances in next year’s elections.