Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, DC shares his perspective on US politics.
What are the implications of the House failing to elect a speaker this week?
Well, I'm down here at the US Capitol where Kevin McCarthy has failed on multiple ballots this week to receive the 218 votes that he needs to become House speaker. And if you're a political junkie, this is really your week. You've got multiple ballots, warring political factions, you've got backroom deals. But the reality is the implications of this in the real world aren't that great. It's a historical anomaly, hasn't happened for over 100 years, but the House wasn't going to pass that much meaningful legislation this year anyway. So a delay in organizing doesn't matter all that much. And whoever the speaker is, they're probably going to end up being pretty weak and any legislation they do achieve will just be either ignored or rejected by the Democrats who control the Senate.
One major implication coming out of this, however, is that it's a clear sign of how ungovernable the House is, with a small faction of Republicans who are willing to derail normal legislative business. This will be relevant later in the year when the US has to increase its borrowing limit. Otherwise, it risks a first ever default. And the signal that we're getting from the House right now is that you've got a lot of members who are unwilling to go along with business as usual and are going to make that fight particularly difficult, very similar to what it looked like in 2011.
Another important implication from the week is the weakness of former President Donald Trump, who publicly came out and endorsed Kevin McCarthy, has privately called members urging them to vote for him, and has largely been ignored. And this is very different than the great and powerful Trump that we saw over the last six years who had a lot of influence to push Republican members to vote the way he wanted them to. So this is a sign of Trump's weakness and an indication that we're very likely going to get a very competitive Republican presidential primary leading up to 2024.