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House Republicans still unclear on how quickly they can elect new speaker

Lawmakers weigh in on Israel conflict
Conflict in Israel comes ahead of House speaker vote 05:47

House Republicans left their meeting Monday night still unclear on how quickly the chamber could elect a new speaker. Reps. Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise are vying for the position, but some members said they were holding out hope for former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to be reinstated to his old job after his historic ouster last week.

Republicans who attended described the meeting as a listening session, where members spoke about removing McCarthy from the speakership last week. The House lawmakers also said there was discussion about how to move forward as a group. 

The conference is eager to elect a speaker this week, especially after the surprise attack on Israel by Hamas that began over the weekend that has already cost over 1,500 Israeli and Palestinian lives.

The conference may try to agree unanimously on a single candidate, in order to avoid the kind of drawn-out,15-round vote that McCarthy withstood to win the gavel in January. McCarthy did not attend the meeting.

After the conference meeting, Scalise told reporters at the Capitol, he thought Republicans would hold a forum Tuesday and pick a speaker on Wednesday. Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry also told reporters it was his goal for the whole House to vote on the speaker on Wednesday, as well.

But it's still unclear which candidate will be able to win enough support within the conference. While Jordan leads Scalise in public endorsements, many members Monday night were uncertain whether the speaker battle could be resolved Wednesday. 

Rep. Max Miller, of Ohio, suggested the conference hold off for another week to sort things out despite pressing concerns about the war in Israel. "I care about what's going on in Israel and I will always stand tough and strong for the Jewish people," Miller, who is Jewish, told CBS News. "Make no mistake, time is always of the essence. But right now we have a crisis on our hands that we also need to get through." 

Rep. Steve Womack, of Arkansas, said a couple of members spoke up in Monday's conference meeting about reinstating McCarthy.  But Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, one of the eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy last week, said he would not support the move and expected him to be true to his word that he wouldn't seek the gavel again. 

However, McCarthy is not ruling out another bid for the job, telling reporters earlier Monday, "I'll let the conference see who unites them."

His remarks came during a news conference Monday about the atttacks on Israel by Hamas that began over the weekend and have so far resulted in over 1,500 deaths and thousands of injuries

McCarthy was asked multiple times whether he'd seek the speakership again. He did not rule out the idea, but repeated that it would be up to the GOP conference. But he also suggested that Republicans would have to take action to prevent the the next speaker from being ousted by such a small percentage of the conference. Eight of the 221 Republicans currently in the House joined all 212 Democrats to remove McCarthy.

"Is our conference just gonna select somebody," he said, "only to try to throw them out in another 35 days if eight people don't get 100% of what they want and the other 96% does?"

The question, he said, is "whether you want to be a conservative who will govern." 

Currently, it just takes one member to bring a motion to vacate the chair, which enabled Rep. Matt Gaetz to introduce the resolution last week. Under McCarthy's predecessor as speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a motion to vacate could be offered on the House floor only if a majority of either party agreed to it. 

"The idea you'd allow eight people to do that with no consequences — no one's gonna be successful." McCarthy said. He also told reporters, "If this conference, regardless of who's gonna be speaker, if it allows a few individuals that love a camera more than they love the American public, we are not gonna govern."

After he was removed as speaker, McCarthy initially said he would not run again. But more rank-and-file Republicans have been publicly calling for him to be restored to the office, beginning with Rep. Tom McClintock, of California, last week.

Arguing that no other candidate is likely to win more than 96% of the vote of the GOP conference, McClintock said in a statement, "The only workable outcome is to restore Kevin McCarthy as Speaker under party rules that respect and enforce the right of the majority party to elect him." He called on several of the eight lawmakers who voted McCarthy out "to disenthrall themselves from their decision and to repair the damage before it is too late."

On Monday, Rep. Carlos Gimenez, of Florida, told CBS News he'd support Kevin McCarthy as speaker instead of the declared candidates, Majority Leader Steve Scalise or Rep. Jim Jordan.

"Why would I support somebody else," Gimenez said. "I'm not disparaging either one of them. They're great, great men and great Americans, and they would make fine speakers, but you know, I don't think they would be as good as Kevin."

Rep. Marc Molinaro, of New York said, "I've made no secret of supporting Kevin McCarthy. He earned my trust, and I'd welcome his return."

Rep. Brandon Williams, of New York, included McCarthy in the group of members running for speaker as a candidate whom he'd support if he can win the votes. "I want a Republican that can get 218 votes on the House floor. Steve (Scalise), Jim (Jordan), or Kevin (McCarthy) are all excellent candidates and I would support any one of them who can get to 218," he told CBS News. "The world is dramatically different today than it was just one week ago."

Rep. Mike Lawler, of New York, also thinks McCarthy should be reinstated. Asked whether he expects someone to nominate McCarthy again, he responded, "We'll see." 

After the attacks on Israel began, Rep. John Duarte, Republican of California told Politico, "A short window is all we need in the House to reinstate Kevin McCarthy and change the rule." 

McCarthy has also blamed Democratic House members for not giving him enough support to overcome the eight members of his own party who voted to remove him. But the former House speaker was extremely critical of President Biden, whom he accused of weakening the U.S. and embracing a policy of appeasement that emboldened and strengthened Iran, which has provided broad support for Hamas. He called on the U.S. government to rescue American hostages, resupply Israel, increase pressure on Iran with more sanctions and focus on the U.S.' own intelligence failures. He also claimed Democrats were not doing enough to confront anti-Semitism in their own ranks.

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