By Laura Gersony

The House of Representatives has been in a state of chaos since Democrats joined with eight Republicans to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy: its legislative business has ground to a halt, bitter infighting has broken out among Republicans and the House's calendar is unclear.

The GOP’s internal disputes largely have left Democrats on the sidelines as they wait for Republicans to reach a resolution.

So far, the House Democrats’ main message has been simple: this is not our problem.

“This is their chaos, this is their dysfunction, this is their inability to govern," Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., told The Arizona Republic on Thursday, noting that it was the GOP's far-right wing that initiated the motion to unseat McCarthy, not Democrats. "There is no compulsion on my part to feel responsible to throw Kevin McCarthy a lifeline."

“I have my leadership: His name is (Rep. Hakeem) Jeffries,” the House minority leader from New York who Democrats have backed for the speaker's job, Grijalva said.

At the same time, Democratic representatives could conceivably play a role in shaping the future of House leadership by striking a deal with Republicans to elect a moderate candidate. 

On Thursday, two of Arizona’s Democratic representatives expressed an interest in that strategy. Grijalva and Rep. Greg Stanton told The Republic that they would be open to voting for a Republican candidate who they felt was trustworthy and moderate.

“Someone who would work in an honest, transparent way, and would work in a sincere, bipartisan way. … I’d catch a redeye and fly to Washington, D.C., tomorrow to vote for that person,” Stanton said. He declined to discuss other details of internal conversations among House members.

"Somebody that is willing to work with the majority, willing to work with our leadership, willing to look for common ground solutions. … I’d be open to that," Grijalva said. Still, he noted that given the slate of candidates who Republicans have advanced so far, "I don’t see it on the horizon.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego’s office declined to answer whether he would be willing to do the same, saying only that Gallego, D-Ariz., "will work with whoever is speaker next to deliver results for Arizona.” Gallego is running for the Senate seat held by incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz.

It remains to be seen whether such a candidate could emerge in the first place. The names being floated for the House Republicans’ top job include House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana; Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio; and even former President Donald Trump. None of the candidates appear remotely close to securing the number of votes needed to gain election, which is upwards of 200.

Stanton and Grijalva said that none of those candidates would fit their criteria.

Democrats have voiced two main objections to McCarthy’s speakership. First, they note that he has proven an unreliable negotiator. They point to last month, when they say McCarthy reneged on the federal spending deal he forged with President Joe Biden earlier this year, a last-minute move that brought the nation to the brink of a government shutdown.

"In our caucus, the Democratic caucus, there was a sense that you could not trust McCarthy's word," Grijalva said.

Second, they were angered by his concessions to the far-right wing of his party. That included launching an impeachment inquiry into Biden despite having no evidence of corruption or financial wrongdoing by the president.

In turn, some Republicans have sought to portray the chaos as the Democrats' fault. GOP leadership has reportedly vowed to "exact revenge" for Democrats voting to boot McCarthy from the speakership, despite that initiative originating from a GOP member. On Thursday, House Republicans' campaign committee labeled Democrats the "Chaos Caucus" in a post on X, the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter.

All House Democrats backed Tuesday’s motion by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., to remove McCarthy. They were joined by Gaetz and seven other GOP representatives, including Reps. Andy Biggs and Eli Crane of Arizona.

House Republican leaders have said they would need at least a week to nominate McCarthy’s replacement, with their internal elections scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 11. 

Until Republicans are able to choose another House speaker, it is unlikely that lawmakers will make progress on bills to fund the government. Congress has about a month and a half to agree on a spending deal or face a partial government shutdown.