October 13, 2023
Scalise Drops Out of Speaker Race As Priorities Pile Up
The House has been without a Speaker for over a week now. The process was further shaken up last night when Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), the front-runner to become the House Speaker, dropped out of the race. Jockeying for the position will continue; however, Republicans are calling for the party to rally behind Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the House Judiciary Committee chairman. Finding a Speaker is now imperative given the Israel-Hamas war that ignited this past week and the fast-approaching November 17th deadline to fund the federal government.
Race for the Speakership
The news of Majority Leader Steve Scalise dropping his bid throws the House into further turmoil. On Wednesday, the GOP conference picked Majority Leader Steve Scalise as their nominee in a secret ballot. Lawmakers exiting the room said Scalise won 113 votes, while Representative Rep. Jim Jordan won 99. A handful of Republicans declined to vote. With Scalise falling well short of 217 in the conference vote, his path to the Speakership was uncertain. It’s unclear whether Rep. Jim Jordan could succeed where Scalise failed — getting the 217 votes needed to secure the job. Majority Leader Steve Scalise declined to say if he was throwing his support behind another candidate – “I’m not getting involved,” were his words.
Only 16 legislative days are currently scheduled for the House before government funding lapses on November 17th, building the urgency of electing a Speaker. Currently, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) is acting as Speaker Pro-Tempore, also referred to as the “Caretaker Speaker,” but the powers of that position are untested, and he may face ousting if he tries to proceed with the legislative business of the House. That issue could be obviated by House Republicans electing McHenry as a temporary Speaker, in the absence of a viable permanent candidate.
Congress Has Much to Do… But Do Not Expect Sweeping (Domestic) Legislation
The congressional dysfunction in the House is holding up several streams of urgent government funding: aid to Ukraine, border security funding, federal government funding (only funded until November 17th) and now emergency aid to Israel. The latter unites virtually all Republicans with a solid majority of Democrats and the Biden Administration but the lack of consensus on a Speaker is currently delaying any action.