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Future of the House after McCarthy


A day after the House of Representatives voted to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House, the chamber is frozen. Candidates to replace McCarthy as speaker are already campaigning for the job. But without someone in the post, lawmakers are concerned no work can get done. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us now from the Capitol. Deirdre, I know you have been staying busy. Tell us, what can actually happen in the House if there is no speaker?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Not very much. I mean, the House is essentially paralyzed. And nobody seems to know, at least in the short term, how the House of Representatives can actually function. Right now, North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry is the interim speaker. As the speaker pro tem, McHenry was appointed essentially to preside over the election of a new speaker. That's supposed to happen next week. But there's a lot of concern that it could take some time for House Republicans to sort of sort out a way forward. One of McHenry's top allies, Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves, suggested McHenry might be in the job for weeks.


GARRET GRAVES: The authority of the speaker pro tem, of Patrick McHenry, is - this is untested. There is not a manual. There's not a book. This has never been done before.

WALSH: The plan is for House Republicans to hold a candidate forum next Tuesday to allow people to make their case why they should be elected speaker. And they plan to vote next Wednesday.

SUMMERS: OK. And I understand that there are already two quite familiar names who are running to replace McCarthy as speaker. Tell us about them.

WALSH: Right, and both are very conservative. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan is running. For years, Jordan has been sort of a thorn in the side of Republican leaders. He founded the House Freedom Caucus, which is a group of far-right conservatives, essentially to sort of poke at Republican leaders. But Jordan has ended up developing a very close relationship with Kevin McCarthy. He's been leading the investigations into the Biden administration and impeachment. He's also very close to former President Trump.

The other candidate so far is House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. He's the current No. 2 in the House Republican leadership lineup. He's very well-liked. He's also gone through a lot personally. He was shot at a practice of House Republicans on the baseball team in 2017 and almost died. And recently, he's been treated for multiple myeloma, which is a form of blood cancer, but Scalise says he's up to the job. There's one other name. Oklahoma Republican Kevin Hern potentially may run. He heads up a large group of fiscal conservatives.

SUMMERS: And, Deirdre, I mean, I do not have to tell you this, but there is a whole lot at stake in Congress right now. And it's the speaker who ultimately decides what bills get up for a vote in the House. Funding for Ukraine is one of those things, I understand. What might possibly happen now.

WALSH: Right. I mean, Kevin McCarthy backed aid for Ukraine, but his successor may not. There's still bipartisan support in both the House and Senate to give more money for Ukraine, but there's a big split among House Republicans. Jim Jordan opposed funding in a recent vote, and he's argued it's really not a top priority.


JIM JORDAN: The most pressing issue on Americans' minds is not Ukraine, it is the border situation, and it is crime on the streets. And everybody knows that.

WALSH: Senate Republicans who support Ukraine are already worried about this situation and trying to come up with a solution.

SUMMERS: And, Deirdre, Congress just passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown, but temporary funding runs out quite soon, November 17. Do you think there will be a new speaker by then?

WALSH: I mean, a lot of House Republicans want it to happen quickly. One House Republican I talked to said it needs to happen next week - the sooner, the better. A lot of them want to avoid that really messy fight we saw play out on the floor in January where it took four days and 15 ballots to elect McCarthy. But the new speaker does start out with this huge task of avoiding another government shutdown. And after McCarthy was tossed out for working with Democrats, there's talk about changing that rule that allowed just one member to file a resolution to remove the speaker. If that's still in place, there's really zero incentive for any new Republican speaker to work across the aisle.

SUMMERS: NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Deirdre, thank you.

WALSH: Thanks, Juana. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.

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