‘Bandaid on an open chest wound’: Democrats mock latest speaker chaos

On Tuesday, as Republicans convened for a round of votes to pick their next nominee for speaker, Rep Jared Moskowitz, an outspoken Democrat from Florida, passed by the conclave. One reporter asked if he was running for speaker and he joked that he might be able to get some votes.

Within hours, the House GOP nominated Majority Whip Tom Emmer only for him to face a revolt and summarily drop out.

But joking aside, Mr Moskowitz, who has also criticised the White House for not condemning antisemitism forcefully enough, told The Independent that the inability of the House to act on providing aid to Israel or Ukraine could hurt America from a national security standpoint.

“If the Senate sends over the package, and we don't have a speaker and our number one ally is not able to get the help that they need in their time of crisis, it's definitely a national security issue,” Mr Moskowitz said.

Earlier this year, Democrats roundly mocked Republicans for their inability to make Kevin McCarthy speaker of the House, even bringing in popcorn. But on Tuesday, officially three weeks since they joined eight Republicans led by Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to depose Mr McCarthy, they are exasperated at the inability to get work done.

Indeed, as Republicans met in Longworth, advocates for Israel – including someone who survived the deadly attack by Hamas earlier this month that killed 1,400 people – supporters of Palestine and lobbyists for aid to Ukraine roamed the halls of the building.

But their efforts to lobby cannot come to fruition because without a speaker, the House cannot have votes. This also comes as the House must pass some kind of spending bill to keep the government open by 17 November. But doing so would likely trigger a motion to vacate the chair and remove Mr McCarthy’s successor since Republicans removed him after he passed a clean stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown.

Rep Greg Casar (D-TX), who serves as the whip for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told The Independent that he was disappointed but not surprised by the House GOP’s inability to coalesce around a nominee for speaker and said they are in a “circular back-stabbing match.”

“And that doesn't serve everyday people,” he said. “So hopefully it gets results soon.”

Mr Emmer’s downfall is the third failed speaker’s nomination from the House GOP. Republicans began Monday with nine nominees for speaker after Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH) proved incapable of winning the gavel after three votes. Prior to that, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise removed himself as speaker designee after conservatives revolted.

Last week, when it looked like Mr Jordan would remove himself temporarily and Republicans would pass legislation to allow Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-NC) to move spending bills, some Democrats expressed openness.

“I'm in the get s*** done party, so if that means getting s*** done, count me in,” Rep Eric Swalwell (D-CA), a frequent critic of Republicans, told The Independent last week.

But the proposal fell apart when conservatives adamantly opposed it, which led to Mr Jordan continuing his bid despite the lack of support.

Republicans have a thin majority, holding only 221 seats in a body of 435 members. With two vacancies in Congress at the moment, Republicans can only afford four defections on any given vote if all members are present.

That in turn came after conservatives repeatedly howled and moaned not only about passing a spending bill at the end of September, which led to 90 Republicans opposing it, requiring Democrats to vote for the bill to avoid a government shutdown. After the vote, Rep Becca Balint, a freshman Democrat from Vermont, danced and joked about how Mr McCarthy did not have the votes to enact deep spending cuts.

Similarly, earlier this year, 71 Republicans opposed the Fiscal Responsibility Act, a deal Republican leadership brokered with the Biden administration to raise the debt limit and slash spending. That required Democrats to make up the requisite votes and 165 of them voted with 145 Republicans to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt.

Earlier this year, a handful of Republicans consistently opposed Mr McCarthy’s bid, which meant House members were only sworn in to office in the wee hours of Saturday 7 January after Republicans had to hold 15 votes before Mr McCarthy won the gavel.

But Ms Balint said that Mr McCarthy’s speakership papered over deeper divides within the House Republican conference.

“I would say that what the McCarthy speakership was a bandaid on an open sucking chest wound,” she told The Independent. “That's why we're here. That was just trying to clean up for the civil war that was already brewing underneath. So it's about time they're dealing with it, but I can't believe it's taken this long.”

Conversely, in every vote, Democrats have unanimously nominated House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Shortly afterward, Republicans nominated Mr Emmer to be their choice for speaker. Four hours later, he dropped his bid.