Congress' stalemate impacts Israel response. Here's how

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation) —With the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the role of House Speaker, the chamber is operating without one of the most powerful positions in the government, paralyzing Congress for the time being as a new war unfolds in the Middle East.

McCarthy’s fate was sealed by a 216-to-210 vote, with eight Republicans joining all Democrats in favor of his removal. In a historic first, North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry was installed as acting speaker pro tempore. While there is no precedent for an acting speaker, the rules of the House dictate McHenry has limited authority and is unlikely to be able to conduct any legislative business on the House floor.

Under the House rules, the temporary speaker can only preside over floor debate and voting about the election of a new speaker. In the meantime, lawmakers cannot hold committee hearings, bring forward legislation or approve new aid, effectively handcuffing Congress from doing anything involving the conflict in the Middle East.

Hamas – the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip – launched an unprecedented attack against Israel over the weekend. Israel formally declared war on Hamas on Sunday. More than 700 Israelis have been confirmed dead and at least 413 Palestinians have been killed as of Sunday evening.

President Joe Biden said he spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, pledged solidarity with Israel and offered “all appropriate means of support.”

The United States already provides Israel more than $3.3 billion in military assistance every year, but the House would need to select a new speaker should more funds be needed.

“There is nothing the House can do until they elect a speaker,” McCarthy said Saturday in an interview with Fox News. “And I don’t know if that happens quickly.”

“The speaker is part of the Gang of Eight that takes action to be able to have briefing,” McCarthy added.

The Gang of Eight is a bipartisan group of congressional leaders who receive sensitive intelligence briefings. Although McHenry currently isn’t cleared to receive Gang of Eight briefings, Biden has the authority to give him clearance. The White House has not announced whether the president intends to do so.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said the Gang of Eight has not yet met for an intelligence briefing, but that the stalemate in Congress could impede the U.S. response to provide aid to Israel.

Jeffries said he hoped the GOP will “get their act together” so “we can move forward to get the business of the American people done both as it relates to our domestic needs… as well as our national security considerations in terms of being there for Israel, being there for the Ukrainian people.”

House Republicans are expected to hear from speaker candidates behind closed doors on Tuesday and vote to choose their nominee on Wednesday. Among the top candidates are House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

NewsNation has reached out to the White House and House Parliamentarian Jason Smith’s office for comment.

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