The disorganized House Republican conference has plunged the House into a “constitutional crisis” or paralysis and drift, said Rep. Mike Lawler, Republican of New York.

“We’re paralyzed,” Lawler told CBS News on this week’s episode of “The Takeout.” “A constitutional crisis. What is happening in Israel, obviously, Congress is going to need to act. Which we cannot do without a speaker. We need to elect a speaker and right now, nobody has a path to 217.”

That’s the number of votes a candidate for speaker would need to prevail when the full House votes to elect a speaker.

Republicans nominated House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana to be speaker in a closed-door meeting Wednesday. Scalise has not yet scheduled a House vote because he lacks the votes necessary to win.

On “The Takeout,” he said he told Scalise in a meeting Wednesday night he opposed his elevation to the speakership.

“The reason I’m not (supporting Scalise) is because we need to have an answer of how we’re going to govern going forward.”

For Lawler, that means breaking the back of hard-right Republicans who helped sack former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and who have opposed spending bills to keep the government open.

 “The majority of the majority doesn’t rule anymore,” Lawler said. “Throughout the course of the year, about 20 people refused to accept the will of the majority of the majority. They felt they could control the floor and control the majority by holding everyone hostage.”

This approach reached its destructive conclusion, Lawler said, when McCarthy was removed as speaker by a motion to vacate filed by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida and backed by seven other Republicans and all House Democrats.

“I’ve been very frustrated and disappointed and angry about what happened to Kevin,” Lawler said. “It never should have happened. It was eight Republicans teaming up with 208 Democrats. They removed a duly elected Republican speaker. Now we have a crisis.”

Lawler said he did not expect the House to elect a new speaker this week.

He said Gaetz has hurt the Republican party and undermined the institutional power of the House.

“He’s a smart guy,” Lawler said of Gaetz. “But I feel he uses his smarts to do wrong and not do right. If he used his intelligence to do good by the people, good by the conference, good by the institution, he would be a force. But when you are focused on undermining the institution or undermining the conference because of personal, petty reasons it’s wrong.”

Lawler also said McCarthy may yet return as House speaker.

“I wouldn’t write it off,” said Lawler, who counts himself among McCarthy’s most visible and vocal allies. “I wouldn’t put a percentage on it. I would say it’s a reasonable possibility. He did a great job. Kevin is our strongest fundraiser, messenger, strategist.”

Lawler called McCarthy’s ouster “the single most destructive thing I’ve ever seen politically.”

McCarthy has taken himself out of contention for the speakership. But as Scalise’s support wavers or diminishes, Lawler said McCarthy may re-emerge.

“He took a step back,” Lawler said of McCarthy’s current attitude about the speakership. “He said, you know, took me 15 rounds (to win the speakership). I just got motion to vacate. First time in our history. I’ll take a step back. He wants to do what’s best for the conference and the country.”

The fight for the speakership is “the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” Lawler added.

Executive producer: Arden Farhi

Producers: Jamie Benson, Jacob Rosen, Sara Cook and Eleanor Watson

CBSN Production: Eric Soussanin 
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Twitter: @TakeoutPodcast
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