DemDaily: Day 15

October 18, 2023

It is Day 15 without a Speaker of the US House of Representatives as a dysfunctional Republican majority struggles to fill the chair amid unprecedentedly bitter divisions amongst its conference.

It is the second time in their first nine months of governing that House that Republicans are attempting to elect a leader of their conference, having historically disposed of the first, Kevin McCarthy, just weeks ago.

In the interim, all business before the US House has come to a complete halt -- paralyzing legislative action as the war between Israel and Hamas continues to unfold, and with a looming government shutdown less than one month away.

Following the 2022 midterm elections, control of the US House of Representatives flipped to a Republican majority of 222 to 213 Democrats in the 118th Congress -- with currently one vacant seat in each party. With Democrats unitedly casting their full 212 votes for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY) in each round, that means the magic number for the GOP to elect a Speaker is 217 -- a simple majority of the 433 members currently in the House.

Today, the second speakership vote to elect House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican known among colleagues as "The Brawler," failed to reach the requisite 217 votes for victory -- with 199 members in favor of Jordan and 22 of his GOP colleagues voting for an alternative choice. That is an increase of two votes against Jordan over yesterday.

January 7: Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA) is elected Speaker after a humiliating 15 rounds of voting. To secure the speaker's gavel, McCarthy makes extreme concessions to hardline conservatives led by Matt Gaetz (FL), co-founder -- along with Jordan -- of the ultra-right, MAGA House Freedom Caucus.

Among the concessions was a change in the threshold to trigger a vote for a "motion to vacate," or remove, the Speaker of the House. What previously required a majority, now requires the motion of just one rank-and-file lawmaker to force a vote to remove the Speaker -- which then requires a simple majority of Congress to pass.

October 3: In retaliation for budgetary compromises McCarthy made with Democrats, Gaetz exercises the new rule, calling for an end to McCarthy's tumultuous term. A heated, televised House floor battle ensues between factions of the GOP, ending with a 216-210 vote to oust McCarthy -- the first US Speaker to be removed from the chair.

Upon McCarthy's removal, GOP Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC) is named interim Speaker Pro Tempore until a permanent successor can be elected. McHenry, who has no interest in the speakership, has been a key GOP negotiator in previous partisan debates.

October 11: House GOP Majority Leader Steve Scalise (LA), a more mainstream conservative, is nominated by the Republican conference as "Speaker-Designate," defeating Jordan, whose candidacy was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, 113-99 vote in a closed-door vote.

October 12: In advance of a full floor vote, Scalise withdraws his name from contention to be the 56th Speaker of the House after determining that he cannot secure 217 votes.

October 13: In a new contest, Jordan, back in contention, is challenged by little-known seven-term Georgia Congressman Austin Scott. Condemning the "sabotage" of McCarthy and Scalise by Freedom Caucus members, Scott said, "I don't necessarily want to be Speaker of the House, I just want the House to function correctly." Jordan won the conference vote 124-81 over Scott.

In a second secret ballot, when asked whether they would support Jordan on the House floor, 152 members reportedly vote yes, 55 no and 1 present.

October 17: After a weekend of unsuccessful lobbying, the crisis of leadership in the Republican Party continues as Jordan falls far short of 217, with the support of just 200 of 220 voting Republicans.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has called on Republicans to work with Democrats to elect a consensus speaker, described Jordan as “the poster child for MAGA extremism” and a “clear and present danger to our democracy.” Jordan, who said he won’t work with Democrats, vowed to go “as many rounds as it takes.”

Next Steps
After today's failed vote, Jordan appears to be facing growing opposition within his own party while another movement is gaining traction for elevating the authority of Speaker Pro Tempore McHenry, possibly through January 3 to see through a stopgap government funding plan and an aide package for Ukraine and Israel.

As such a resolution would be unchartered territory, it would likely take some level of support from Democrats.

In the interim, the house has recessed until noon tomorrow, October 19, when a third vote on Jordan's nomination is expected to take place.

DemDaily: The Bitter Battle for The Gavel 10/13/23
DemDaily: Holding The House Hostage 10/12/23
DemDaily: GOP House of Cards Crumbles 10/3/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: US House, AP, Politico, CBS, NBC

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