Republican rivals make high-stakes pitch for US House leadership

Republican rivals make high-stakes pitch for US House leadership
Republican rivals make high-stakes pitch for US House leadership

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talks to members of the media as he arrives to a candidate forum with House Republicans to hear from members running for US Speaker of House in the Longworth House Office Building on October 10, 2023 in Washington, DC. — AFP pic

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 — Two Republicans vying to lead the US House of Representatives were set to make their pitches Tuesday, as the party struggles to end a bitter civil war that has thwarted quick action on the Israel crisis and other urgent business.

The 221-strong Republican contingent that controls the lower chamber of Congress is set to hold a “candidate forum” to pick a replacement for speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted last week in a mutiny from the far right.

Neither of the declared candidates — Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan — has won enough support to emerge as a clear frontrunner, raising fears of a prolonged paralysis on Capitol Hill.

“While we argue about so many serious internal problems, we seem to be unaware of the grave dangers facing us and our allies across the world,” Pennsylvania Republican lawmaker Mike Kelly posted on social media.

“The greatest nation to ever inhabit this planet is consumed with political issues and ignoring her own vulnerabilities and weaknesses.”

The leadership vacuum had prompted speculation over a possible comeback by McCarthy so that Congress can pass legislation to address the crisis in Israel, which is reeling from a deadly weekend attack by Hamas militants.

McCarthy — who became the first speaker in US history to be ousted in the middle of his term — had appeared open to the possibility of a return.

But he has since ruled out what always looked like a long-shot second grab for the gavel, according to politics-focused website Punchbowl News, which reported that he had instructed lawmakers not to nominate him.

‘Urgent action’

Scalise, McCarthy’s longtime deputy, has pitched himself as the unity candidate who can heal the party’s bitter divides while Jordan, who has been endorsed by former president Donald , is a darling of the right.

House Republicans will hear from the pair at 5:00pm (2100 GMT), with the internal party vote to select the nominee scheduled for Wednesday.

The contest has taken on a heightened sense of urgency in the wake of the bloodshed in Israel, which left more than 900 dead in the worst attack in the country’s 75-year history. Another 900 people have been killed in Gaza, officials say.

President Joe Biden has pledged US help, and Democrats have been pushing for emergency aid to be wrapped into a broader Ukraine-focused funding package being prepared in the Senate.

“My administration has consulted closely with Congress throughout this crisis,” Biden said in a White House speech.

“And when Congress returns, we’re going to ask them to take urgent action to fund the national security requirements of our critical partners. This is not about party or politics, this is about the security of our world.”

Meanwhile, almost 400 lawmakers introduced a symbolic resolution standing with Israel, and a separate group drafted bipartisan legislation to expand the White House’s power to sanction Hamas.

Elsewhere, two Republicans and two Democrats introduced a bill to provide $2 billion for replenishing Israel’s “Iron Dome” defence system.

“Without the critical Iron Dome system — which intercepts Palestinian rockets in the air — many, many more civilians would have been wounded or killed,” said New York Republican Claudia Tenney, noting that it had taken out more than 3,200 rockets in recent days.

But none of the measures can be taken up until a new speaker is elected, and lawmakers are also unable to sign off on emergency aid. — AFP

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