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A tale of two speakers, revisited

Liberal Ontario MP Anthony Rota

Liberal Ontario MP Anthony Rota

Late last month, speakers of both the US and Canadian legislatures were facing the possible end of their tenures. In Canada, Anthony Rota resigned after welcoming a Ukrainian veteran who fought with a Nazi SS division to the House of Commons. Around the same time, in the US, Rep. Kevin McCarthy lost his fight to hold onto the gavel after a handful of far-right Republicans turned on him, and Democrats joined them.

Now, Canada’s House of Commons has a new speaker, while the US House of Representatives is struggling to elect one for themselves. Last week, Liberal member of Parliament Greg Fergus was elected speaker by his colleagues in a secret preferential ballot, making him the first Black speaker in the country’s history. His election proceeded far more quickly and smoothly than its American counterpart.

On Wednesday, however, Republicans made some progress toward filling the speaker’s chair. GOP representatives chose Louisiana’s Steve Scalise – who voted to overturn the 2020 election – as their pick over judiciary chair Jim Jordan. But that’s just step one. Now, Scalise must find his way to 217 votes – a path that will take him through ruins with potentially hostile members of his own party, Democrats, or both. Scalise can only afford to lose four Republicans without having to rely on the other side of the aisle. So far, at least a dozen Republicans are opposed to Scalise.

We’re watching to see if Scalise and the Republicans can fill the speaker’s chair while facing down lingering and developing crises, including the war in Ukraine – and the battle in Congress to fund it – and the Israel-Hamas war. We’re also watching to see if Fergus can bring some order and the decorum to the House of Commons. Good luck with that.


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