Republicans back to square one as Speaker crisis deepens

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: BBC News:
October 21, 2023 at 13:58
Republicans are back to square one. It's a game of congressional snakes and ladders, where every space on the board is a serpent.

More than two weeks after a handful of House conservatives ousted Kevin McCarthy from the speaker's chair, the party is still looking for a someone who can successfully reach the top of the board.

No one yet has even come close.

Jim Jordan is only the latest, most determined casualty of a leadership drama that at every turn seems to get more chaotic and acrimonious.

His week-long quest to win the top job in the House ended up as futile as his party's first pick, Steve Scalise, who threw in the towel before any ballots had been cast.

Mr Scalise may have seen the writing on the wall more quickly because he is a traditional Republican legislator, who had come up through the ranks of his party's leadership. He had made deals and built relationships to become the second-ranking Republican in the House.

Mr Jordan, on the other hand, is a different character. He made his name in Congress as a political bomb-thrower. He co-founded the House Freedom Caucus, which has used political brinksmanship - under threat of government shutdowns and even a national default on the debt - to bend centrist and establishment Republicans farther to the right.

Watch: Jim Jordan: Three things to know about the conservative firebrand

He also has the backing of Donald Trump and his right-wing populist movement. He is embraced by a conservative media ecosystem anchored by Fox News evening talk-show hosts like Sean Hannity.

Where Mr Scalise's motivations were to cut his losses and maintain his position within the Republican hierarchy, Mr Jordan's incentives were to damn the political torpedoes and forge ahead.

But the qualities that made him successful as an insurgent ultimately created the kind of intra-party enemies who could block him from the prize.

After three very public failures in balloting before the full House, his end came quietly, by secret ballot, in a basement meeting with his fellow House Republicans. It is a fate that will make him a martyr for the party's right wing, which will view his defeat as further evidence of a party establishment that is insufficiently dedicated to conservative values.

"The most popular Republican in the United States Congress was just knifed by a secret ballot," Congressman Matt Gaetz, whose objection to Mr McCarthy started this whole crises, told reporters on Friday. "It's as swampy as the swamp gets."

House Republicans now head home for the weekend to lick their wounds. A grab-bag of politicians have already either declared their bids for the speakership or are seriously considering them.

With Mr Scalise and Mr Jordan - two of the most high-profile House Republican names - off the board, Monday's candidate forum promises to be a raucous affair, where dark-horse candidates with little political baggage might find success.

When one candidate ultimately emerges from closed-door Republican meetings as the pick of the party, the slow grind to get to 217 votes - and the speaker's gavel - begins again.

With a Republican caucus so fractured, and nerves so raw at this point, it won't be an easy task. The snakes on the board aren't going away anytime soon.

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