The House of Representatives is without an elected Speaker for the first time in its history. President Joe Biden’s pick for ambassador to Israel has not been confirmed, and military promotions have been held up by a single senator due to abortion policy. The U.S. The government is running on a continuing resolution, causing another government shutdown in just over a month.
This is particularly bad timing as Israel is fending off a brutal attack from Hamas, a Palestinian militant group. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, believes it could send a bad message make the response less effective and imperil aid to Israel and Ukraine. Positions in the United States Central Command, responsible for supporting Israel, are vacant due to a GOP colleague’s hold on military promotions.
The recent political turmoil in the United States may have contributed to the Hamas attack, which came after months of planning. The lack of a House Speaker and the holds on diplomatic nominees and military personnel may have been a factor. Laura Blumenfeld, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, suggests that Hamas exploited internal division in the Israeli government. She urges America to listen carefully and learn from Israel’s actions. Despite the infighting within Capitol Hill, the Biden administration can support Israel, as at least 11 American citizens were killed in the war.
Biden has been in contact with Benjamin Netanyahu, who has issued a joint statement declaring “steadfast and united support” of Israel, condemning Hamas, and recognizing the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people. The US is deploying a strike group and military aircraft to Israel, demonstrating support and providing them with munitions and other military supplies.
The ongoing crisis will test the abilities of a federal government hobbled by intra-party squabbles, power struggles, and power plays by individual politicians. The situation could potentially reduce military readiness and leave the United States less able to respond to such situations. The absence of a House Speaker leaves the US in unknown waters, as it is unclear whether the speaker pro tem can do anything other than gavel the chamber in and out of session or bring legislation to the floor to aid Israel.
The situation threatens the United States’ reputation as the most powerful actor, as a single lawmaker in any party can put a “hold” on a nomination, which can take many hours to bypass. Senate appointments have been postponed due to Sen. Rand Paul’s demand for federally funded virus research documents from the Biden administration, Sen. J.D. Vance’s case-by-case hold-ups, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s protest against federal policy that pays for military personnel and their families to travel out of state for abortions or reproductive care. These appointments are part of a larger effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Military leaders, the White House, and Trump’s colleagues have called for him to halt his hold on numerous posts, including Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Army chief of staff, and Marine Corps commandant. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held individual votes to confirm these posts, but several hundred more are still under Trump’s hold. Rep. Gerry Connolly, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized the leaderless situation as dangerous.
The Speaker-less House has two significant impacts: either Israel and Ukraine are denied assistance, the US suffers from unfilled diplomatic and military positions, or the dysfunction becomes a new normal, with budgets and military preparedness handled unevenly.