WASHINGTON: Republicans in the US Congress face new pressure to select a House Speaker after Israel declared war on Sunday, following a rare attack by Hamas fighters that has prompted calls for more US military aid.
Some Republicans, including top candidate Jim Jordan, said there could be no new Speaker without a decision on the thorniest issue the House faces – how much the federal government should spend in the next fiscal year.
The US in 2016 pledged US$3.8 billion in annual aid to Israel under former president Barack Obama, part of a record 10-year US$38 billion aid deal that guarantees weapons, ammo and other military support.
The House is expected to vote this week for a replacement for Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Until then, it cannot approve new aid.
“It’s not ideal,” Republican representative Michael McCaul told CNN on Sunday. “What kind of message are we sending to our adversaries when we can’t govern, when we’re dysfunctional, when we don’t even have a speaker of the House?”
That won’t happen without a spending bill, Jordan and others say.
“When we walk out of that room … we’ve got to have 218 votes for a Republican Speaker and we’ve got to have 218 votes for how we deal with Nov 17, when the funding bill for the government comes due,” Jordan, who is battling the House’s No 2 Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana for speakership, told Fox News on Sunday.
Hardliners pushing for cuts that would reduce government funding to fiscal 2022 levels have divided House Republicans for months and brought Congress to the brink of a government shutdown just over a week ago.
Any House bill that includes severe spending cuts is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.
“I am not going to support anybody until the conference figures out spending,” Republican representative Ken Buck told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
Buck said he expects his colleagues on Wednesday or Thursday to pick a new Speaker behind closed doors, a move that would avoid a recurrence of the 15 floor votes that preceded McCarthy’s election to the speakership in January.
Matt Gaetz, the Florida congressman who led McCarthy’s ouster, downplayed the speaker election’s impact on Israel’s security needs, suggesting on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the US could fulfill the country’s requests.
It’s unclear whether Israel had already sought additional security assistance from the US and whether any such assistance would be part of the US$38 billion aid deal struck in 2016.
“The actions taken by some members of my party were wholly irresponsible without this going on,” Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie told ABC’s This Week. “They’re now even putting a brighter light on the irresponsibility of not having someone in place.”