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House Republicans’ wayward speaker search enters round three
Nine candidates are in the running this time for a job it seems the GOP majority wants no one to have but that the country can’t function without.
House Republicans will decamp the Longworth building of the US Capitol on Monday night to restart the process of choosing a speaker in hopes the third time will be the charm.
Nine GOP members formally declared their candidacy by the Sunday afternoon deadline. They will make their case at a candidate forum, although many have been working the phones to consolidate support from their finicky colleagues throughout the weekend.
It’s unlikely you’ve heard of any of them, but here they are anyway:
House Majority Whip TOM EMMER (Minn.)
House Republican Vice Chair MIKE JOHNSON (Okla.)
Republican Study Committee Chair KEVIN HERN (Okla.)
Rep. BYRON DONALDS (Fla.)
Rep. AUSTIN SCOTT (Ga.)
Rep. JACK BERGMAN (Mich.)
Rep. PETE SESSIONS (Texas)
Rep. GARY PALMER (Ala.)
Rep. DAN MEUSER (Pa.)
A few notes:
Two candidates—Emmer and Scott—voted to certify the 2020 presidential election. Meuser voted to certify the Arizona results but not Pennsylvania’s. None voted to impeach former President DONALD TRUMP for his role in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, or to establish the committee to investigate the insurrection.
Donalds, Hern, Palmer, and Sessions voted against the Fiscal Responsibility Act—the law that resulted from the agreement between former Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY (R-Calif.) and President JOE BIDEN to avoid a first-ever default on US debt. The agreement also set funding levels for the upcoming fiscal year to prevent a government shutdown, but McCarthy reneged on the deal less than two weeks after he signed it.
Hern, Johnson, and Palmer voted against the continuing resolution Congress passed in September to keep the government open. Donalds did not vote.
Seven candidates have been in Congress for less than 10 years. Scott has represented his deep-red Georgia district since 2011. Sessions served 13 terms in the House before Rep. COLIN ALLRED (D-Texas) defeated him in 2018. Sessions was elected to represent a different district in 2020. (Allred is now running to unseat Sen. TED CRUZ in 2024.)
All candidates are members of the conservative Republican Study Committee, the largest ideological caucus in Congress of either party.
If Donalds were to win the nomination and ultimately be elected, he would be the first Black House speaker in US history, a distinction many Washington insiders expect to befall House Minority Leader HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-N.Y.) if Democrats win back the chamber next year. Donalds, a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, was nominated in January during the first speaker’s race as an alternative to McCarthy, whom he initially opposed.
No women declared their candidacy for the job—perhaps a sign that they all know better.
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The candidate forum will be followed by an internal conference election on Tuesday by secret ballot. What happens next will depend on who wins and how close he is to the 217-vote threshold required to secure the gavel. None of the candidates have the votes locked down. If they did, there wouldn’t be so many candidates running.
I’m told House Democrats—who have unanimously nominated Jeffries for speaker on the previous 18 ballots—have a separate dinner scheduled that was planned prior to the announcement of the candidate forum.
The House has been without a speaker for almost three weeks after Rep. MATT GAETZ (R-Fla.) and seven other House conservatives voted to remove McCarthy from the role for all sorts of reasons. House Democrats voted with the Gaetz 8 to oust McCarthy partly for his failure to honor the debt-limit agreement that deepened an existing trust deficit.
What’s ensued since has been nothing short of a mess for House Republicans that has left one-half of the body whose job it is to debate and pass laws unable to do so.
Rep. JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee co-leading the impeachment inquiry into President Biden and co-founded the Freedom Caucus in 2015, lost three floor votes last week in his bid for the speakership. His support was weaker than the floor votes indicated: In a secret ballot following the third on Friday afternoon, almost five times as many Republicans called on Jordan to drop his candidacy than those who publicly opposed him.
Jordan originally came in second place as the GOP’s pick to succeed McCarthy to House Majority Leader STEVE SCALISE. But Scalise withdrew before his candidacy received a floor vote once he realized the knives from McCarthy and Jordan’s camps were too sharp for him to make it out alive.
The paralysis comes at a cost. The government runs out of funding in 25 days. And as you’ll read in the rest of this post, major decisions on how much—if any—funding will go to our allies in Europe and the Middle East and be invested into critical domestic programs are pending a functioning House. But if the past few weeks are any indication, that’s of little concern to House Republicans focused more on settling petty scores with their colleagues.