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U.S. Democracy Defaced in House Speaker Race Farce

The U.S. House of Representatives remains rudderless as right-wing Republican Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the Republican nominee for speaker, failed again to garner enough support to be elected.

It’s not a surprise as U.S. politicians are addicted to wildly pursuing personal and partisan interests even when the government shutdown is imminent and people’s interests deeply damaged. The political polarization has once again defaced “American democracy.”

REPEATED FAILURE

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday failed to elect a new speaker in the second round of voting, as Jordan lost more votes from his own party compared with the first round amid continued Republican infighting.

Jordan got only 199 votes out of the 221 House Republicans, losing 22 Republican votes in the second round of full-chamber voting, compared with 20 Republican defections in the first round on Tuesday, which showed mounting resistance within the party and cast more doubt over the way forward.

 Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, was ousted from the position in a 216-210 vote on Oct. 3, marking the first time in the U.S. history that a house speaker has been voted out of office in the middle of a term. Eight Republicans joined Democrats in removing McCarthy from the speakership.

The Republicans then nominated Jordan as house speaker candidate after a number of intra-party votes. The infighting then shifted to the House of Representatives, where Jordan needs to win the support of a majority of the members present.

The Republican Party now controls 221 seats, just nine more than the Democratic Party.

Democrats unanimously supported House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in the first two rounds of voting. The Republican candidate will not get enough votes to be elected if Republicans cannot reach an agreement.

Jordan, co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is considered a far-right figure within the Republican party and has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Some Republican lawmakers who didn’t vote for Jordan supported House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and former speaker Kevin Owen McCarthy. One even cast his vote for former House Speaker John Boehner, who was forced to retire early in 2015 by threats of ouster from right-flank insurgents like those who toppled McCarthy.

Earlier Thursday, Jordan said he would seek a third ballot for speaker. U.S. media reported that Jordan’s supporters are pressuring other Republican lawmakers to support him.

Iowa Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks reported receiving death threats after voting against Jordan in the second ballot.

“Threats and intimidation tactics will not change my principles and values,” said Republican Congresswoman Jen Kiggans, who voted for McCarthy in both rounds of voting.

POTENTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Since the ouster of McCarthy and the prolonged election of a house speaker, U.S. legislation is at a standstill.

The U.S. government is facing an imminent shutdown as Congress is tasked with federal government appropriations among others.

The 2023 fiscal year ended on Sept. 30, and only a temporary appropriations bill was passed until the last minute since both parties had been fighting over the federal budget for the new fiscal year. However the bill can only fund the federal government until Nov. 17th.

“Until a speaker is elected there’s not going to be anything meaningful happening in the house, and the clock is ticking on the 45 days the government will stay open,” Christopher Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College, has told Xinhua.

Even if Jordan is elected, his conservative propositions might lead Washington to a shutdown.

“My expectation is that under Jordan’s speakership, Congress will become even more dysfunctional than it has been over the past year,” said Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former official with the International Monetary Fund.

He told Xinhua that there is even less chance for bipartisan legislation than there was before.

“Among other things, this heightens the chances of a government shutdown at the end of the month as Mr. Jordan is likely to demand spending cuts unacceptable to the Democrats,” said Lachman.

Dean Baker, a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told Xinhua that “ending the prosecution of Donald Trump will be his (Jordan’s) highest priority,” which is not going to happen. Therefore, the United States “could have a very long government shutdown, which will be bad news for the economy.”

Greg Cusack, a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives, told Xinhua that if the discord in Congress continues, resulting in a government shutdown or another impasse over the debt ceiling, citizens will be hurt.

ALARMING PARTISANSHIP

Chaos seems to be a “new normal,” and even those who are no strangers to partisan fights are astounded.

Commenting on McCarthy’s ouster, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin said it sent a negative message to the world about “American democracy.”

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that two-thirds of Americans believe Washington politicians cannot put aside their partisan differences to do their jobs.

An article on the website of the British newspaper The Guardian said the approval ratings for Congress and the U.S. federal government are near historic lows, with most saying they have little confidence in the future of the U.S. political system.

It is the U.S. political system that allows partisanship to wreck havoc on society as it prioritizes personal and partisan interests over national and public interests.

As Cusack has pointed out, Congress has no incentive to do the right thing unless it can bring lawmakers a boost in approval ratings or more campaign funds.

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