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Alabama Republican announces his bid for U.S. House Speaker

Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., questions TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on the platform's consumer privacy and data security practices and impact on children, Thursday, March 23, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon/AP
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., questions TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew during a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on the platform's consumer privacy and data security practices and impact on children, Thursday, March 23, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Alabama GOP U.S. House member Gary Palmer says he wants to be the next Speaker. UCLA’s Promise Institute assembled a list of candidates who were considered “election deniers” and “election skeptics” before the 2022 midterm election. Palmer was listed as an election skeptic, which was defined by the New York Times as someone who criticized the election, casting doubt on the outcome, but did not wholly express claims of a stolen or rigged 2020 election.

A news release on Palmer’s candidacy for the U.S. House Speaker quotes the Representative…

“The American people are desperate for authentic leadership, leaders who will work to move the nation forward. As Republicans, we must show a contrast. There is a distinct difference between our vision for a prosperous and strong America and the vision of the Democrats that has done so much harm. This is why I decided to step forward in the race for Speaker of the House. To do what I can to put our differences behind us and unite Republicans behind a clear path forward, so we can do our job for the benefit of the American people."

Palmer’s announcement follows actions by House Republicans to drop Jim Jordan as their nominee for Speaker. This comes after Jordan failed in a third try for the speaker's gavel. Frustrated and angry Republicans sank further into turmoil with no idea how to end the crisis created after hardliners ousted Kevin McCarthy. Despite Jordan's backing from Donald Trump, opposition to him only grew. More than two dozen centrist Republicans revolted over the Ohio congressman's nomination and the hardball tactics being used to win them over. Some have received death threats. Next steps are uncertain as Republicans start pitching new candidates for speaker.

Their majority control floundering, Republicans left a private session blaming one another for the divisions they have created. Next steps were highly uncertain, as a wide range of Republican lawmakers started pitching themselves for speaker. But it appears no one at present can win a GOP majority, leaving the House without a speaker and unable to function for the foreseeable future, an embarrassing blow to a central U.S. seat of government.

"We're in a very bad place right now," former speaker Kevin McCarthy said.

Majority Leader Steve Scalise said they would "start over" Monday. New nominees are to come forward for a candidate forum and internal party votes.

Exasperated with no easy solutions in sight, House member Mark Alford, a freshman from Missouri, was far from alone in expressing his anger and disappointment.

"I gave up my career to come here to do something for America, to rebuild our military, to get spending under control, to secure our border — and here we are in this quicksand," he said.

In a floor vote Friday morning, Jordan's third reach for the gavel, he lost 25 Republican colleagues, worse than he had fared earlier in the week, and leaving him far from the majority needed.

A founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, Jordan's run essentially collapsed in large part because more centrist Republicans are revolting over the nominee they view as too extreme and the hardball tactics being used to win their votes. They have been bombarded with harassing phone calls and even reported death threats.

To win over GOP colleagues, Jordan had relied on backing from Trump, the party's front-runner in the 2024 election, and groups pressuring rank-and-file lawmakers for the vote. But they were not enough and in fact backfired on some.

Friday's vote was 194 for Jordan, his lowest tally yet, and 210 for Jeffries, with two absences on each side.

In fact, Jordan lost rather than gained votes despite hours spent trying to win over holdouts, no improvement from the 20 and then 22 Republicans he lost in early rounds this week.

McCarthy himself rose in the chamber to nominate Jordan, portraying him as a skilled legislator who reaches for compromise. That drew scoffs of laughter from the Democratic side of the aisle.

Democrats nominated Leader Hakeem Jeffries, with House member Katherine Clark calling Jordan, who refused to certify the 2020 presidential election results, "a threat to democracy."

At a fundraiser, President Joe Biden offered his own commentary on Jordan's failure: "He just got his rear end kicked."

For more than two weeks the stalemate has shut down the U.S. House, leaving a major part of the government severely hobbled at a time of challenges at home and abroad. While Democrats have offered to broker a bipartisan deal to reopen the House, the Republican majority appears to have no idea how to end the political turmoil and get back to work.

With Republicans in control of the House, 221-212, any candidate can lose only a few detractors. It appears there is no Republican at present who can win a clear majority, 217 votes, to become speaker.

One extraordinary idea, to give the interim speaker pro tempore, House member Patrick McHenry, more powers for the next several months to at least bring the House back into session and conduct crucial business, was swiftly rejected by Jordan's own ultra-conservative allies and brushed back by McHenry himself.

A "betrayal," said House member Jim Banks, R-Ind.

Republicans predict the House could essentially stay closed until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.

"We're trying to figure out if there's a way we can get back with a Republican-only solution," said veteran legislator House member Tom Cole, R-Okla.

"That's what normal majorities do. What this majority has done is prove it's not a normal majority."

What's potentially more unsettling is that it's not at all clear what the House Republicans are even fighting over any more — let alone if any GOP leader can fix it.

The Republican chaos that erupted Oct. 3, when a small band of eight hardliners led by House member Matt Gaetz of Florida orchestrated McCarthy's historic ouster, has cascaded into angry grievances, new factions and untested alliances.

Gaetz and the hardliners wanted to punish McCarthy for a number of perceived wrongs, including passing legislation with Democrats to keep the government funded and prevent a federal shutdown.

But when Scalise won the nomination to replace McCarthy, Jordan's allies broke from party rules and blocked the Louisianan's rise. Scalise abruptly withdrew his nomination.

Angry that Scalise didn't seem to get fair treatment, more mainstream Republicans staged their own revolt against hard-liner Jordan, saying he didn't deserve the gavel.

Weeks of heated, fiery meetings later, Republicans have drifted far off track from what had been their House majority's stated priorities of cutting spending and other goals.

Democratic Leader Jeffries reiterated that his party was "ready, willing and able" to work with more traditional Republicans on a path to reopen the House —- particularly as Congress is being asked to consider Biden's aid package for Israel, Ukraine and other needs.

Jordan has been a top Trump ally, particularly during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by the former president's backers who were trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.

First elected in 2006, Jordan has few bills to his name from his time in office. He also faces questions about his past.

Some years ago, Jordan denied allegations from former wrestlers during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University who accused him of knowing about claims they were inappropriately groped by an Ohio State doctor. Jordan has said he was never aware of any abuse.



Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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