(WASHINGTON) — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul on Sunday bemoaned the nearly three weeks — and counting — that the chamber has gone without a speaker amid conservative infighting over how to fill the key leadership role.
“This is probably one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen, because if we don’t have a speaker of the House, we can’t govern,” McCaul, a 10-term Republican lawmaker from Texas, told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl.
The crisis in the House is unfolding at a time of growing conflicts abroad — in Europe, where Ukraine is seeking to repel Russia’s invasion, and in the Middle East, where Israel is fighting Hamas in the wake of a terror attack that killed more than 1,400.
“The world’s on fire. This is so dangerous what we’re doing,” McCaul said of the paralysis over choosing a speaker.
“We have very important issues right now, war and peace, and we cannot deal with an aid package, or my resolution condemning Hamas and supporting Israel. We can’t do that,” he said.
“Most importantly, it’s embarrassing because it empowers and emboldens our adversaries like Chairman Xi [Jinping] who says, you know, democracy doesn’t work,” McCaul said, referring to China’s leader.
Kevin McCarthy was ousted as House speaker in early October by a small group of Republicans who were joined by the Democratic minority. Two potential successors to McCarthy were unable to unify Republicans to be elected as his replacement. The conference plans to try again this week.
McCaul said on “This Week” that he hadn’t chosen whom to back, “but I want a speaker in the chair so we can move forward.”
He suggested that Democratic votes may be needed to resolve the impasse through some kind of power-sharing arrangement, even if he would prefer otherwise and even if some other Republicans “see that as very dangerous as well.”
“I’d rather it be the Republicans nominating and voting on the floor for a Republican speaker. But this can’t go on forever,” McCaul said. “I don’t know if we’re going to have a speaker next week. I don’t know how this plays out.”
On the unfolding Israel-Hamas war, McCaul said he agreed with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who also appeared on “This Week,” that there was a real danger of a widening conflict in the Middle East.
The U.S. has deployed two carrier strike groups and other military assets to the region in a show of deterrence, Austin said.
McCaul said he applauded those moves “because Hamas and [the Lebanese militant group] Hezbollah only see one thing, and that’s power.”
“If they see weakness, they will fire. And what I worry about Hezbollah, Jon, is that they have 100,000 rockets and precision-guided weapons that can overload the Iron Dome,” McCaul said, referring to the advanced anti-missile system Israel uses to protect itself.
McCaul added that he is also concerned that Israel’s expected ground invasion of Gaza, the neighboring Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas, “could trigger an escalation by Hezbollah.”
“They’re the A-team,” McCaul said of Hezbollah. “It’s like Hamas is, like, Little League Baseball.”
Karl pressed McCaul — who has been working on updating the post-9/11 authorization for use of military force to include newer militant groups — on the prospects of America being more directly involved in the fighting.
“We don’t want to see that, and that’s why, you know, if we provide deterrence now, we hopefully can avoid war,” McCaul said.
The chairman said he was broadly supportive of a $105 billion foreign aid proposal that the White House sent Congress last week, which would include about $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, $7 billion for Indo-Pacific priorities and $14 billion for border management.
“I’m in favor of the concept of linking the biggest threats to the free world. … We’re looking at the numbers. The House, you know, we have the power of the purse, and we appropriate the money,” McCaul said.
McCaul said he believes it “would be very dangerous to abandon” U.S. allies right now, but he acknowledged that there are members of his party who criticize the scope of funding for Ukraine.
“They want accountability. They also want to plan a path to victory and a strategic objective, and I think that’s fair,” McCaul said.
The U.S. and Ukraine both say there are guardrails in place to help ensure the money is well spent; Ukraine has said it wants to expel Russia from all occupied territory.
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