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US House to vote on Tuesday in struggle to elect speaker

US House to vote on Tuesday in struggle to elect speaker
Published October 16, 2023 Updated October 16, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

WASHINGTON — The United States (US) House of Representatives, paralysed for the past two weeks amid a leadership fight among Republicans, will vote on Tuesday in its latest attempt to elect a speaker, members were told on Sunday (Oct 15).

The blockage in the House for one of the most powerful positions in US politics — second in line to the presidency — has few precedents. Members have grown increasingly frustrated as the absence of a speaker has prevented action on key spending measures and kept the chamber from reacting to crises like the Israel-Hamas war.

While a temporary speaker, Patrick McHenry, was named after the surprise ouster on Oct 3 of Kevin McCarthy, his replacement has few real powers. 

Mr McCarthy fell victim to sharp divisions between Republican moderates and a small core of far-right backers of former President Donald Trump.

After a tense week marked by several reversals, Ohio lawmaker Jim Jordan, a former wrestling coach who is close to Mr Trump, is currently the only announced candidate for the job — but he appears far from having the needed backing to be elected to the powerful post.

The vote on Tuesday is set for noon local time (midnight on Wednesday, Singapore time), with its outcome far from certain.

“It’s time to get to work,” Mr Jordan said on X, the former Twitter, as he urged his colleagues to bury their differences and rally around his candidacy. 

Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel, a historic ally of the US, has added to the pressure for a new speaker. 

Congress also needs to act on aid for Ukraine. And it faces a Nov 17 deadline to act on the budget and avert a possible government shutdown.

The Democratic Party of President Joe Biden is in a minority in the House — though only barely so — and essentially plays a spectator’s role to the Republican drama. AFP