With the world in crisis, House Republicans argue among themselves | ET REALITY


Two key allies of the United States are embroiled in fierce wars. A disruptive government shutdown looms in just over a month. Americans are held hostage abroad by hostile forces. Uncertainty spreads throughout the country.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are consumed by a protracted struggle of personal grievances, petty disputes, political vendettas and an unbridled pursuit of attention that Thursday night forced Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana to withdraw as a presidential candidate. of his party. The tumult has sidelined Congress at a critical moment and turned the Capitol into a bastion of GOP dysfunction. The spectacle of their internal struggles is even more evident at a time of international crisis, a fact that does not go unnoticed by the Republicans themselves, who remain unable to elect a president who can put the House back to work.

“We live in a dangerous world; the world is on fire,” Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, said Thursday after emerging from a closed-door meeting where Republicans groped, unsuccessfully, for a way out of their impasse. . “Our adversaries are watching what we do and, frankly, they like it.”

“I see a lot of threats out there,” he added, ominously referring to the current disorder among his own colleagues unfolding in the basement of the Capitol. “One of the biggest threats I see is in that room, because we can’t come together as a conference and put the speaker in the chair together.”

In past moments of crisis, such as after the attacks of September 11, 2001, lawmakers have been able to put aside personal and political differences, if only temporarily, to present a unified front to reassure the country and the world. But there were no signs Thursday that Republicans were willing to end their disputes despite the pressure of world events, and it was unclear how they could right the ship after Scalise’s heartbreaking decision.

After a historic vote to impeach their own president last week, they appeared on the verge of a rapid recovery on Wednesday as Republican lawmakers met and narrowly voted to nominate Scalise, the No. 2 Republican, to succeed former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. But it quickly became clear that Republicans were unwilling to put aside their divisions and support him in the House. As he left the fight Thursday night, Scalise said some of his colleagues had “their own agendas.” Some were entrenched by Rep. Jim Jordan, the far-right Republican from Ohio who co-founded the House Freedom Caucus and challenged Scalise for the nomination, trailing by just 14 votes.

Others simply refused to commit.

Trying to stem the momentum against him, Scalise had called colleagues Thursday for another private meeting that stretched well into the afternoon in what one Republican described as a display of slights, large and small, worthy of Festivus, a festive parody. Lawmakers warned that they were damaging not only their own image, but also that of the nation.

“It sends a terrible signal,” said Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican and former Air Force general whose swing district seat could be at risk if voters deem his party unfit to govern. “We are not a governing body and we should be.”

The concern abroad about what is happening as Israel engages with Hamas and Ukraine engages with Russia is real. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, in Europe during a Senate recess for meetings with high-level officials, said he faced lingering questions about U.S. engagement in those regions and instability in the House.

“This is a critical moment for us to demonstrate that we can govern and engage reasonably with our allies in the face of a dangerous world,” he said.

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., expressed a similar sentiment, saying the situation in the House went beyond internal Republican politics.

“This paralysis is not just an inconvenience,” he said. “It leaves our nation vulnerable. “It shows the world (allies and enemies) that we cannot govern.”

The differences between Republicans blocking a new president do not seem insurmountable. All of them are essentially conservative at different points of the ideological spectrum. What does seem insurmountable, at least for now, is the refusal of some members to overcome their differences. There is a distinct bloc of Republicans in the House of Representatives who refuse to give ground even when their party’s national and international image is at risk.

McCarthy supporters remain angry about his impeachment and vow to vote for him again. Scalise supporters are upset with McCarthy’s staunch supporters. Scalise’s opponents portrayed him as too much of an establishment product, while Jordan’s critics see him as too anti-government.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, was upset that his plan to change the internal election process was summarily dismissed Wednesday, clearing the way for Scalise to win the nomination with a simple majority vote before opting out. Roy said other opponents were also concerned that Scalise’s health (he is being treated for blood cancer) could be affected if he won the gavel.

Then there are those who simply love the spotlight that comes with being one of the legislators standing in the way of someone in the speaker’s chair. Rep. Greg Murphy, R-North Carolina, went after her Republican colleague Nancy Mace of South Carolina on X, formerly Twitter, accusing her of attacking Scalise’s record on race to get attention.

“The 24-hour news cycle has destroyed Congress,” Murphy wrote.

It didn’t help that former President Donald J. Trump happily fanned the flames by opposing Scalise. Then there was Rep. George Santos, the recently re-impeached New York Republican, who stoked the disorder by refusing to endorse Scalise and helping keep the House frozen at a time when his colleagues might be tempted to impeach him if they could. Reestablish order.

Some Republicans dismissed concerns about the state of the House and its impact on national and world affairs. Roy called those fears a “swampy worry,” derisively referring to institutional Washington.

“The entire universe does not revolve around this building,” he said of the Capitol. “If something happens, you can act.”

Even if Republicans could somehow decide who will be speaker, that would hardly mean a return to fluid government. Whoever is selected will face a learning curve on top of a fractured majority and face pressure to hold the line on deep spending cuts in upcoming fiscal negotiations with the Senate and White House to avoid a shutdown. His colleagues will be watching closely how they handle it.

The next speaker will also have to negotiate growing Republican resistance to extending financial assistance to Ukraine, while pressure will be put on it to provide Israel with whatever it needs in the conflict with Hamas.

Before whoever emerges as president gets to that point, House Republicans must first find a way out of a leadership vacuum that some Republicans fear has transformed from a brief, embarrassing interlude for their party to something more sinister. .

“This is a bad episode of ‘Veep,'” said Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., “and it’s turning into ‘House of Cards.'”

Lucas Broadwater, Catie Edmondson and Annie Karni contributed with reports.

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