Oct 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP lawmakers say attack on Israel adds urgency to House speaker vote

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio, left) and Steve Scalise (R-La., middle). Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

Many House Republicans say Hamas' attack on Israel has added urgency to the need to agree on a new speaker, echoing the Biden administration's concern that not having a leader could affect their ability to approve aid to Israel.

Why it matters: Several lawmakers want the U.S. to move quickly with some combination of sanctions, aid and resolutions supporting Israel — but say Republicans will have to get beyond their divisions and deal with the ambiguity over the extent of the temporary speaker's powers.

  • "I think it certainly puts pressure on the conference to resolve this," Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) said. "The challenge is there are serious divisions within the conference" over former Speaker Kevin McCarthy's ouster, "and a lot of anger about what happened."

Driving the news: Lawmakers have been working on bipartisan measures to show support for Israel, but the chief concern for many is that if the selection of a speaker drags on beyond a scheduled vote Wednesday, the U.S. response to Israel's crisis will be delayed.

  • GOP sources have noted that both contenders for speaker — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — are short of the 218 votes needed to be elected.
  • Some members fear the speaker issue may not be resolved by the end of the week.
  • The situation has raised questions over whether Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) can receive intelligence briefings.
  • Beyond Israel, there's another huge issue the House isn't working on: The prospect, once again, of a government shutdown in mid-November if the House GOP can't come to a consensus on a spending plan to continue funding the federal government.

What they're saying: "If the government was shut down, it could be very bad because [President] Biden can provide some level of support to Israel without Congress," one senior GOP lawmaker said. "But in a shutdown? Not as simple."

  • "Moves up [the] timeline," to elect a speaker, another lawmaker said. "People won't tolerate 15 rounds while Hamas [is] firing rockets into Israel," a reference to the 15 votes it took to elect McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaker in January.
  • "I wish [it would accelerate a vote] — they did this without a plan," Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) told Axios, referring to the far-right Republicans who forced McCarthy's ouster. "Our country is a mess and anyone who thought this was a good idea is a few cards short of a full deck."

Worth noting: One GOP lawmaker told Axios that some members of the moderate Republican Main Street Caucus were calling to reinstate McCarthy in the wake of Hamas' attack. But other members doubted that possibility.

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