Republicans nominated Majority Leader Steve Scalise on Wednesday to become the next House Speaker, as GOP lawmakers seek to end a self-imposed paralysis of Congress amid the worst Middle East crisis in decades.
Scalise was narrowly elected 113-99 Wednesday during a closed-door vote, over House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, who had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
The full U.S. House of Representatives must still vote to approve Scalise as Speaker, before any legislative action can be taken.
Several Republicans who supported Jordan would not publicly commit to supporting Scalise after the initial vote, and it was not immediately clear if he could get the 217 votes needed to secure the speakership.
As a result, Scalise decided to delay a House floor vote. Some lawmakers had hoped that it would come Wednesday afternoon, but shortly after 3 p.m., the House was gaveled into recess, subject to the call of the chair.
Scalise will need to work to get the support of more Republicans, to avoid a series of votes that fall short.
Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy endured 15 votes over a period of four days earlier this year, before being chosen to lead the lower chamber.
The House has been paralyzed since McCarthy was ousted last Tuesday, after Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida made a motion to vacate the chair. Gaetz’s motion was ultimately approved with the help of seven other Republicans and all of the House’s Democrats.
Americans are watching. One-quarter of Republicans say they approve of the decision by a small group of Republicans to remove McCarthy as speaker. Three in 10 Republicans believe it was a mistake, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
‘We see how dangerous of a world it is’
Some Republicans have said it is embarrassing that the House is unable to govern, at a time when Israel is dealing with the deadliest attack on the Jewish people since the Holocaust.
“The world is watching. They’re seeing a dysfunctional democracy,” said Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
McCaul said Republicans need to avoid the spectacle of a series of public votes in which they can’t put their nominee over the top for House Speaker.
“I think that just projects weakness, and every time you project weakness, you invite aggression,” he said.
Scalise pledged that once he becomes House Speaker, his first priority will be to put a bipartisan resolution that’s co-sponsored by McCaul on the House floor, calling for the condemnation of Hamas and reaffirming support for Israel.
“We see how dangerous of a world it is and how things can change so quickly,” Scalise said. “We need to make sure that we’re sending a message to people all throughout the world that the House is open and doing the people’s business.”
Republicans and Democrats have both lamented that the House has looked powerless, with an inability to govern for more than a week as an international crisis unfolds.
Scalise and Republicans hope they can end their own political crisis this week and help lawmakers get back to work.
For now, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who was named as the speaker pro-tempore, is effectively in charge. He has shown little interest in expanding his power beyond the role he was assigned — an interim leader tasked with ensuring the election of the next speaker.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.