GOP congresswoman announces retirement amid House speaker chaos

Debbie Lesko said she will not seek re-election because ‘Washington is broken’

Holly Hales,Eric Garcia
Wednesday 18 October 2023 08:41 EDT
Moment Jim Jordan loses first round of House speaker vote

GOP Rep Debbie Lesko has announced that she is retiring from Congress amid because “Washington DC is broken” – as the Republican party continues to court chaos with the House speaker vote.

The 64-year-old, who represents Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District, also said that her wish to spend more time with family was behind the decision.

“Spending, on average, three weeks out of every month away from my family, and traveling back and forth to Washington, DC almost every weekend is difficult,” Lesko said in a statement.

“Right now, Washington, DC is broken; it is hard to get anything done.”

Ms Lesko said she will remain committed to her constituents until her term officially ends in January 2025.

“I want to thank all of the people who have supported me throughout the years. Please know that my office and I will continue to passionately serve our constituents and our nation until the end of my term in January 2025,” she said.

It comes after the House of Representatives remains in turmoil with no speaker since Kevin McCarthy’s ouster.

On Tuesday, 20 Republicans voted against Rep Jim Jordan in his bid for the role, despite the overwhelming majority of the House GOP conference voting to make him speaker.

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) has confirmed she will not seek re-election

The vote against Mr Jordan comes as the House marks two weeks since Rep Matt Gaetz filed a motion to vacate, which led to seven other Republicans and every Democratic representative present to depose former speaker Mr McCarthy.

Mr Jordan’s nomination came after House Majority Steve Scalise removed himself from the running despite the fact he beat Mr Jordan in an internal vote within the GOP conference.

Mr Jordan then worked to win over many skeptics within his party and successfully flipped many of them.

But Mr Jordan needs to secure 217 votes to take the gavel.

The vote against Jim Jordan comes as the House marks two weeks since Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed a motion to vacate

Ultimately Reps Don Bacon of Nebraska, Carlos Gimenez of Florida, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, John Rutherford of Florida, Mike Simpson of Idaho, Tony Gonzales of Texas, Nick LaLota of New York, Doug LaMalfa of California, Mike Lawler of New York, John James of Michigan, Victoria Spartz of Indiana, Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, Jake Ellzey of Texas, Anthony D’Esposito of New York, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Ken Buck of Colorado, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Jen Kiggans of Virginia opposed him opposed his nomination.

Rep David Joyce of Ohio did not vote.

Mr Lawler, a Republican who represents a district that voted for President Joe Biden, told The Independent that he cast his vote for Mr McCarthy because he did not believe Mr McCarthy should have been removed.

Rep Scott Perry, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus that Mr Jordan co-founded, told The Independent that Mr Jordan losing the first ballot was “predictable.”

Rep Scott Perry, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus that Mr Jordan co-founded, said losing the first ballot was “predictable.”

“You remember January, right? It started out in essentially the same place,” Mr Perry said.

Many Republicans cast their votes for Mr McCarthy and Mr Scalise in protest of how they were treated. On Tuesday, Mr Bacon had protested how some conservatives had deposed Mr McCarthy and blocked Mr Scalise.

“So my main concern is, as an American, we believe in the rule of law and fairness,” Mr Bacon told reporters on Monday evening before a meeting among House Republicans.

“And we had a small group of folks who broke our rules and got rid of Kevin and then a small group broke our rules and blocked Steve.”

Rep Derrick Van Orden, who backed Mr Jordan, said he did not think everyone who opposed Mr Jordan did so for attention.

“I know some of those folks that don’t want a reality television show,” he told The Independent.

“I don’t think it’s serving the American people, but some of those people that voted for folks other than Jim Jordan are very serious legislators, and I don’t know why they would do that.”

Mr Diaz-Balart told reporters he had changed his position.

Rep Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), who backed Mr Jordan, said he did not think everyone who opposed Mr Jordan did so for attention

“I’m in the same place,” he said. He added that he could see himself supporting other candidates. “We are now in a position where we are where we are and so we have to now move forward.”

By contrast, Democrats unanimously voted for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Mr Jeffries told reporters he was having conversations with Republicans every day.

“We just want to reopen the House of Representatives so we can do the people’s business,” he said.

The impasse comes as the House faces numerous crises it must address. Congress must pass the legislation to keep the government open in November.

The handful of conservatives had voted to depose Mr McCarthy because had passed a “clean” continuing resolution to keep the government open without any conservative riders in September.

In addition, many in Congress – not just in the House, but also the Senate – hope to pass aid packages to Ukraine as it seeks to push back against Russian aggression and to Israel as it seeks to respond to a terrorist from Hamas.

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