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The Controversial Cancellation of the Televised GOP Speaker of the House Debate: Divisions within the Republican Caucus Exposed

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On October 6, 2023, the decision for a televised debate among Republican candidates for Speaker of the House sparked controversy and ultimately led to the event's cancellation.[0] Representative Kevin Hern, who had not yet made a decision on his candidacy, expressed his opposition to the televised debate on X, formerly known as Twitter.[1] Hern believed that the decision should be made as a conference and not on TV, stating that the Republican conference needed a family discussion.[2]

The GOP caucus had originally planned to hold a candidates forum on Tuesday, followed by a closed-door vote on Wednesday.[3] The forum, which was expected to be attended by former President Donald Trump, would have provided an opportunity for the candidates to present themselves and their plans to their fellow Republicans. However, the exact timing of the speakership vote on the House floor was yet to be determined.[4]

The front-runners for the speakership were Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana.[5] Both candidates had their own history with the Biden White House, with Jordan leading an impeachment inquiry into President Biden and Scalise serving in GOP leadership.[6]

The removal of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy from power had created a vacuum in the chamber and left many questions about how the House could function without a speaker.[7] McCarthy's collaboration with Democrats to pass a measure extending government funding had led to his ousting by eight House Republicans. Representative Patrick McHenry was acting as the interim speaker until a new speaker was elected.[7]

The decision to turn the speakership race into a televised debate on Fox News received backlash from Republican lawmakers. Multiple House Republicans expressed their frustration with the decision, believing that the discussion should take place behind closed doors with other conference members.

The cancellation of the debate came after discussions between Scalise and Jordan, who agreed that it would not be wise to participate.[8] Jordan's spokesperson stated that it was crucial to meet with the GOP conference before the event to share his plan for the country.[4]

The cancellation of the debate was announced by Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier, who expressed his frustration with the leak of the event. Baier clarified that the event was not a debate but an interview in which he would press the congressmen on who should be the next Speaker of the House and discuss the issues facing Congress and the Republican party.[2]

The cancellation of the joint interview was seen as a sign of the simmering tensions within the Republican conference. The search for a new speaker was becoming increasingly unpredictable, with Republicans aiming to coalesce around a single leader before the conference vote.[9]

The cancellation of the debate raised questions about how the House would proceed in selecting a new speaker. In the past, these contests have been settled behind the scenes before the first official vote on the House floor. However, it was uncertain whether Republicans would be able to reach a consensus before the vote.[10]

Overall, the decision to cancel the televised debate among Republican candidates for Speaker of the House highlighted the divisions within the GOP caucus and the challenges of selecting a new speaker. The search for a new leader continued, with Republicans facing the task of finding a candidate who could secure a majority of votes on the House floor.[11]

0. “House Republicans Finally Did Something Smart” The New Republic, 6 Oct. 2023, https://newrepublic.com/post/176050/republican-speaker-debate-canceled

1. “Controversial Fox News Speaker Debate Canceled Following GOP Pushback” Forbes, 6 Oct. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/saradorn/2023/10/06/controversial-fox-news-speaker-debate-canceled-following-gop-pushback/

2. “Bret Baier's House Speaker Candidate Interview Canceled” TheWrap, 6 Oct. 2023, https://www.thewrap.com/bret-baiers-monday-interview-with-house-speaker-candidates-canceled-at-fox-news/

3. “Televised GOP speaker forum collapses after internal uproar” Axios, 7 Oct. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/10/06/televised-speaker-forum-house-republicans-fox-news

4. “Fox News Speaker ‘Debate' Off After Republicans Decry ‘Horrible Idea'” The Daily Beast, 6 Oct. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/fox-news-bret-baier-to-moderate-gop-speaker-candidate-debate

5. “PBS NewsHour | Candidates for House speaker make their cases for the gavel | Season 2023 | Montana PBS” montanapbs.org, 11 Oct. 2023, https://watch.montanapbs.org/video/house-divided-1696963533/

6. “Biden finds GOP's chaos a helpful contrast but an unwelcome distraction | News Channel 3-12” KEYT, 6 Oct. 2023, https://keyt.com/politics/cnn-us-politics/2023/10/06/biden-finds-gops-chaos-a-helpful-contrast-but-an-unwelcome-distraction

7. “House Republicans to hold secret ballot election before nominating speaker” Colorado Springs Gazette, 10 Oct. 2023, https://gazette.com/news/wex/house-republicans-to-hold-secret-ballot-election-before-nominating-speaker/article_e4b37e78-81c5-5583-a34c-27ba931766a1.html

8. “House Republicans set speaker election schedule” Roll Call , 6 Oct. 2023, https://rollcall.com/2023/10/06/fox-news-speaker-candidate-forum-nixed/

9. “Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan Make Pitches for House Speaker as GOP Worries Grow” The Wall Street Journal, 10 Oct. 2023, https://www.wsj.com/politics/steve-scalise-jim-jordan-to-make-pitches-for-house-speaker-as-gop-worries-grow-25cae8e6

10. “House Of Representatives At Standstill As Leaderless Republicans Mull Speaker Options” HuffPost, 10 Oct. 2023, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/house-speaker-kevin-mccarthy_n_65259f8fe4b0a32c15c09341

11. “Televised Fox News Speaker forum called off after candidates pull out” The Hill, 6 Oct. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/4242236-televised-fox-news-speaker-forum-called-off-after-candidates-pull-out/

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