WASHINGTON: US House of Representatives Republicans expect to hear pitches from at least two colleagues on Tuesday vying for the powerful role of speaker, under mounting pressure from a war in the Middle East and another looming government shutdown.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan were expected to speak at a 5 p.m. (2100 GMT) closed-door forum, a day before party members were expected to vote on a nominee by secret ballot.
Each candidate is expected to make a 20-minute presentation. The conference could also vote on a proposal aimed at keeping internal disagreements behind closed doors by requiring any nominee to win 217 Republican votes, enough to elect the next speaker on the House floor over Democratic opposition.
Republicans hold a narrow 221-212 majority, which made it possible for a fraction of their members to force Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted as speaker last week, to endure 15 grueling floor votes to become speaker in January.
“We need to handle this inside the caucus and not go through what we did in January,” said Representative Ralph Norman, who opposed McCarthy at the time. “That’ll play out, probably, tonight.” More than 90 Republicans have called for raising the threshold for choosing a nominee. But others warn that requiring 217 votes would still give commanding sway to a minority of party members.
It took only eight Republicans to oust McCarthy last week, a fact that could make leading the caucus a challenge for any new speaker. While McCarthy was the first speaker to be ousted in a formal vote, the last two Republicans to hold the job wound up leaving under pressure from party hardliners.
Republicans may also have to tackle other thorny issues, including how to move forward on government funding for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 and whether to change the rule that allowed just one lawmaker to call a vote to oust McCarthy. Current government funding expires on Nov. 17.
Jordan, a prominent hardline conservative backed by former President Donald Trump, appeared to have an edge in support heading into Tuesday’s meeting.
Scalise appeared to have the support of many veteran and establishment Republicans including party leaders, while Jordan drew endorsements from others including Trump-style populists.