Congress Paralyzed Without House Speaker As Israel Battles With Hamas

Following last week's historic ouster of Kevin McCarthy, there's no indication Republicans are any closer to finding common ground on who will lead the chamber. The speaker vacancy means the house can't do most of its work including proposed measures to send emergency funding to aid in Israel’s fight against Hamas militants.

Monday, October 9th 2023, 1:00 pm

By: CBS News


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President Joe Biden and other political leaders in the U.S. have vowed to support Israel after the Hamas militant group launched a deadly attack on Saturday, but Congress can't do anything about the situation until a new House speaker is put in place.

Following last week's historic ouster of Kevin McCarthy, there's no indication Republicans are any closer to finding common ground on who will lead the chamber.

The speaker vacancy means the house can't do most of its work including proposed measures to send emergency funding to aid in Israel’s fight against Hamas militants.

Lawmakers will return to the hill with a speaker vote expected this week. Over the weekend, endorsements rolled in for the two Republicans looking to earn the speakership: Ohio congressman Jim Jordan and House majority leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Meanwhile, Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern (R) announced that will not run for the vacant House speakership, saying that a three-man race for Speaker would create more division.

"Well it is my hope that our Republican colleagues get their act together, could settle on a speaker, who could receive 217 votes, and that we could move forward to get the business of the American people done.," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D New York) told CNN.

Time to provide crucial aid remains precious as events continue to unfold in the Middle East, as well as in Ukraine in the war against Russia. The death toll on both sides soared over 1,300, with nine Americans among the dead. An undetermined number of Americans remained missing.

What Is The Situation In Isreal

Officials said the Israeli death toll from Hamas' surprise attack stood at 700 Monday morning, but it was expected to continue rising. More than 250 of the dead were people who had been attending a music festival near the border with Gaza when the attack took place.

Israel made it clear that it wanted vengeance, and in the Gaza Strip, retribution was falling from the sky. The airstrikes had killed more than 590 people as of Monday morning, including at least 91 children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health. It said some 2,900 more were wounded in the strikes.

Hardline conservatives say additional support for Ukraine is a non-starter and they want a House Speaker that will continue the push for deeper cuts in long-term spending bills.

Polling by CBS News shows the American public wants the new republican speaker to prioritize federal spending cuts, but also work across the aisle with Democrats and stand up against the 'MAGA' movement. That public sentiment doesn't seem likely as want a speaker who will try to impeach Biden and one who'll be loyal to Donald Trump.

| CBS Poll Results |

How Was McCarthy Removed As House Speaker?

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from his leadership position in a historic vote on October 3 after a far-right revolt over his reliance on Democrats to pass funding to avert a government shutdown earlier this month.

It's the first time a House speaker has been removed in a no-confidence vote.


Why Did A Group Of Republicans Side With Democrats To Remove McCarthy?

"The one thing that the White House, House Democrats, and many of us on the conservative side of the Republican caucus would argue is the thing we have in common — Kevin McCarthy said something to all of us at one point or another that he didn't really mean and never intended to live up to," said Matt Gaetz (R- Florida) said on the House floor Tuesday.

A day earlier, Gaetz accused McCarthy of making a "secret side deal" with President Biden on Ukraine aid to get a short-term funding bill passed hours before the government was set to shut down. McCarthy denied having made any deal in exchange for Democratic votes.

11 Republicans voted against the earlier motion to table Gaetz's resolution, an ominous sign of what was to come for McCarthy.

The Speaker of the House is not only the leader of the chamber but also second in line for the presidency. Ousting a sitting speaker by vote in the middle of a congressional term would be unprecedented in American history, and McCarthy's allies have warned that doing so would set a precedent that would hang over every speaker moving forward.

That argument did not persuade Democrats to come to McCarthy's rescue. Democratic leadership members had urged their caucus to vote "yes" on the motion to vacate.

"Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair," Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote to his caucus.

McCarthy had expressed confidence to reporters Tuesday morning that he'll prevail, although if five Republicans joined all of the Democrats in voting against him, McCarthy would be removed.

Ahead of the vote, McCarthy told reporters "It is what it is" but insisted he was "confident" he would remain speaker.

"I'm an optimist because I think there's no point in being anything else," McCarthy said.

He said earlier that he spoke with Jeffries Tuesday morning, but when he was asked whether he would have to rely on the votes of Democrats to retain the speakership, he replied, "No, I personally am not."

Gaetz has consistently opposed McCarthy's speakership and was among those who helped draw out the process of electing him speaker to a record 15 rounds of voting. In order to win over far-right Republicans, McCarthy agreed to a condition making it possible for a single member to motion to oust the speaker. That deal has come back to haunt him. McCarthy said Gaetz's challenge to his speakership is "personal."

"He's more interested in securing TV interviews," McCarthy said of the Florida Republican.

Explainer: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The 'Speaker Of The House'

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