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Politics chat: House Speaker race; U.S. politics being shaped by the war


We're watching events in Israel and Gaza this Sunday morning as violence continues there, now a week after Hamas launched its surprising and brutal attacks in southern Israel. More on that throughout the program today. Now to Capitol Hill and the vacancy in the House speakership. NPR's Franco Ordoñez is watching that story for us this morning. And he joins us now. Good morning, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Ayesha.

RASCOE: So are House Republicans any closer to finding a speaker?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, I mean, it's a really tough question to answer. I mean, the Republicans - they did nominate Representative Jim Jordan after Steve Scalise dropped out, but that's because Scalise didn't get enough support. And Jordan appears to have the same problem. He's going to need 217 votes to get elected. And they did an internal vote, and it shows that he's more than 50 short so far. I mean, there is some kind of floor vote expected in the coming week. And there's some push by Jordan's backers who think putting it on the floor will make it harder to oppose him, especially since former President Trump has thrown his support behind Jordan. But Jordan is really facing some stiff resistance from his own party, and he's really not going to be able to look to Democrats, who are pretty united against him.

RASCOE: You say that Democrats are sticking together, but, you know, what about this chatter about some kind of bipartisan compromise? Is that a fever dream?

ORDOÑEZ: (Laughter) I mean, there is a lot of chatter about needing a bipartisan path, but it is really hard to imagine that happening, considering the positions that both sides are taking in the last couple days. I mean, on Friday, Democratic leaders - they took to the Capitol steps in this big show of unity, and they went on the attack - I mean, calling Jordan an extremist, an insurrectionist and an election denier. I mean, it really appears to be an example of how the Democrats are gearing up for 2024 and painting the party as extremists with Jordan at the top. And yes, they talk about compromise, but they say Republicans need to bring it forward. And that doesn't appear to be happening.

RASCOE: Does not having a speaker have an effect on the conflict in Israel in terms of aid or cooperation or anything else?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, for sure. I mean, in so many ways, the House is paralyzed. No votes can happen. You know, lawmakers on both sides want to show their support for Israel, some even proposing a bipartisan resolution, possibly moving some funds to help support Israel. But that can't happen. And it's a really intense moment in the conflict, as we've just been listening. You know, it's entering this new phase with, you know, anticipation of ground operations. President Biden has pledged his full support behind Israel, but he's also now expressing some concern about the risk to civilians in Gaza. Here he is, actually, in Philadelphia.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Can't lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas and Hamas's appalling attacks.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, Peter Kenyon was just telling you about the conditions on the ground. Biden's team certainly seems to be watching and listening to concerns from the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations who are really worried about what's ahead.

RASCOE: The fight between Israel and Hamas has become part of the presidential race here in the U.S. Donald Trump made some eyebrow-raising comments about it.

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, very eyebrow-raising. I mean, he really caught a lot of attention when he criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and referred to Hezbollah as very smart. Hezbollah, of course, is the Lebanese militant group that's backed by Iran. You know, in many ways, some - you know, Trump's comments about Netanyahu were surprising, considering how close the two leaders were. But it also shows how quickly relationships can sour with Trump, who felt slighted by Netanyahu over some of his support for Biden.

And our listeners obviously know it's not new to hear Trump complimenting a controversial figure. You know, Trump referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a genius and very savvy after their invasion of Ukraine. And the pushback, though, has been very strong, especially about Netanyahu. And it appears Trump seems to be walking it back just a bit. He posted on social media that he stands with Israel, and he stands with Netanyahu.

RASCOE: That's NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Franco, thank you.

ORDOÑEZ: Thanks, Ayesha. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.