". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Clouds Gather over Israel as House Speaker’s Chair Sits Empty

October 9, 2023

It’s surreal to think that while eight congressmen were congratulating themselves for upending the House speakership, terrorists a half a world away were putting the finishing touches on a plot that would rock the whole world. As the rest of the globe watched America, weapons were being loaded onto trucks that would ultimately carry out the execution of hundreds of innocent Israelis and plunge the Middle East into a war that no one saw coming. Now, with half of Congress frozen in a crisis of the Republicans’ own making, there’s a new urgency: fill the leadership vacuum or watch helplessly as more innocents — including Americans — die.

The United States was already in unchartered waters voting out a House speaker, now America’s allies are too. While Israel burns and dozens of hostages are hauled off by Hamas, the third most powerful position in Washington sits empty. “This has ramifications for the world,” Fox News’s Will Cain insisted. “All of this underscores the national security implications that now, at this very moment … are essentially paralyzed because there is no speaker of the House,” he said to the man who last held the job, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“You’re 100% correct,” McCarthy agreed. “There is nothing the House can do until they elect a speaker. And I don’t know if that happens quickly. … Why would you ever remove a speaker during a term to raise doubt around the world?” he asked. “… I just moved to keep government open. Could you imagine, had I not done that, that our military [would not be being] paid right now?” The same with our border patrol, he argued, who are trying to keep these same terrorists from crossing into America.

McCarthy said he was “very much” concerned that some Republicans don’t fully grasp the implications of what’s playing out in Israel. Other members of his party agree. On Sunday, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) called Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) coup against the California speaker “dangerous.” “I look at the world and all of the threats that are out there and what kind of message are we sending to adversaries when we can’t govern, when we are dysfunctional, when we don’t even have a speaker of the House?”

“We have to move quickly on this,” McCaul urged. “We’re just in too dangerous of a time to be playing games with our national security.”

While the House scrambles to decide between declared candidates — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) — McCarthy held a press conference Monday outlining a strategy to help Israel. Sounding very much like the leader of the House, his strategy was five-pronged: “rescuing U.S. hostages currently being held by Hamas, supplying Israel with new weapons, confronting Iran, addressing U.S. domestic national security and confronting anti-Semitism.”

Asked if he would accept the gavel again if it was offered, McCarthy demurred. “I’m going to allow the conference to do their work,” he replied, a reference to the closed-door meeting the GOP planned for Monday night ahead of the Tuesday candidate forum and election Wednesday.

Until then, it’s unclear how much the Biden administration can do without Congress. Republicans seem to be increasingly antsy to get the House back in the game. New York Congressman Brandon Williams (R), a Navy veteran, thinks people know the two men well enough to vote now. “The nation and the world needs (sic) America’s Congress to be functioning,” he posted. “Every hour brings more risk. I met with a Taiwan representative yesterday … they are anxious about our weakness. It’s time to step up folks & get back to leading.”

Like other members of the caucus, he thinks McCarthy’s reinstalment is the quickest solution. During the former speaker’s press conference, he tweeted, “Kevin McCarthy is the only globally recognized American leader who is speaking with moral clarity about the Iran-Hamas terrorist rampage right now.” To which Gaetz replied, “Math is real” and “time to move forward.”

Meanwhile, the outrage at the so-called “Gang of Eight” is only growing. “They did this without a plan,” Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) told Axios. “Our country is a mess and anyone who thought this was a good idea is a few cards short of a full deck.”

As for how this all unfolded over the weekend, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins believes these attacks have been in the works “for some time,” but Congress’s immobilization would have certainly helped Israel’s foes. “So Hamas may be taking advantage of that opportunity,” he warned on Monday’s “Washington Watch,” “perpetrat[ing] something we haven’t seen in decades in Israel. I hope,” he said to Congressman Mark Alford (R-Mo.), “that a sense of urgency has settled upon your colleagues.” 

Alford was blunt in his assessment. “Well, I hope that the ‘Chaos Caucus’ who forced Kevin McCarthy out of office, realizes that they may have contributed — not to the murders of the Jewish people in Israel — but to the overall sense of chaos that’s going on in the world. When we have a president who … is feckless, failing, and flailing,” America is in trouble, he insisted. “This is a powder keg that we are sitting on right now. And for us not to have a leader in the White House who can sit behind the Resolute Desk and be resolute in his thinking and his speech is a disgrace to the United States of America.”

In the same vein, Alford urged, “we must have a leader soon in the speaker's position that can lead us forward with clarity, determination, a strength for Israel, more support for Israel to rebuild their Iron Dome, and [a] … unified force that will guarantee Israel their future.”

Becoming visibly emotional, the Missouri congressman lamented, “I never thought I would see this day, where we would see Jewish people butchered in the streets, grandmothers shot in the head, little children rounded up. There [haven’t] been this many Jewish people killed in one particular timeframe since the Holocaust.” That said, Alford went on, “I know that God has a plan. I know how it all ends.” In the meantime, “I want to make the decisions here in Congress in a godly fashion with God at my side — to help me lead others and to help be a part of the leadership here that will maybe provide some peace to America and confidence for our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.