It’s day two of House Republican drama and dysfunction. Here’s what you should know.
McCarthy Goes 0 for 6 as GOP Chaos Caucus Digs In
Groundhog Day is just over four weeks away, but Wednesday sure felt like it in the House of Representatives.
For the second day in a row, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California failed on three separate ballots to win the votes he needs to be named speaker of the House. Twenty conservative Republicans opposed to McCarthy again blocked his leadership bid for a fourth, fifth and sixth time. All three failed votes came after former President Donald Trump publicly backed McCarthy’s bid and urged Republicans to fall in line.
“That Trump can no longer sway or influence his former core supporters is another data point that underscores how ungovernable this majority will be — whoever eventually gets the role of Speaker,” analyst Chris Krueger of the Cowen Washington Research Group said in a note to clients.
Following the sixth vote, the House adjourned until 8 p.m. ET, and McCarthy was seen heading into a closed-door meeting with some of his opponents. A breakthrough could conceivably still happen tonight as Republicans continue to negotiate. “We will get 218, will solve our problems and we will all work together,” McCarthy told reporters.
Signs of progress? A number of Republicans reportedly indicated that they had been making progress toward agreement Wednesday afternoon, even as the vote totals stayed the same across the fourth, fifth and sixth ballots. Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York received all 212 of his party’s votes, while McCarthy got 201 votes and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) got the 20 votes of the Republican rebels. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) voted “present.”
“We’re having ongoing conversations, they’ve actually been more productive in the last two hours than they’ve been in a long time,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), one of McCarthy’s 20 GOP opponents, said. He later indicated he still wasn't backing McCarthy.
Democrats and the White House had to love Wednesday afternoon’s televised split screen: House Republicans’ continuing chaos on one side while on the other, President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were in Kentucky touting more than $1 billion in new funding under the bipartisan infrastructure law to upgrade a bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio.
“I wanted to start off the new year at this historic project here in Ohio and Kentucky with a bipartisan group of officials because I believe it sends an important message — an important message to the entire country: We can work together. We can get things done. We can move the nation forward,” Biden said. “We just drop a little bit of our egos and focus on what is needed in the country.”
Biden noted that McConnell is now the longest-serving leader in Senate history and joked that he had asked the senator if he could say something nice about him. “I said I’d campaign for him or against him, whichever would help him the most,” the president said.
As he was leaving for Kentucky earlier in the day, Biden said the House speaker fight was “not my problem” but called it “a little embarrassing” and said it would not look good to the rest of the world.
“I hope they get their act together,” he said of Republicans.
The bottom line: This evening’s GOP talks could break the deadlock, but it’s still not clear how McCarthy can overcome the objections of enough Republicans to secure the 218 votes he needs, especially given that some of his opponents insist they will not back him. Republicans may soon start pressing for a more viable alternative. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) has been garnering the most mentions.
Tweets of the Day
Comedian Jon Stewart joined with Democrats in happily watching the Republican infighting, but he has a point about C-Span: until a House speaker is elected, the network controls the cameras in the chamber and can show whichever angles it wants, which has freed it up to show some floor discussion that might not otherwise be seen. “When the House is actually in session, the majority controls the cameras and those kinds of member-wrangling conversations rarely happen where they can be caught on camera," Bloomberg News notes.
Fed Officials Expect to Maintain Tough Stance on Inflation for ‘Some Time’
At their most recent meeting in December, officials at the Federal Reserve made it clear that they remain committed to their effort to reduce inflation from its recent historic highs, even as inflationary pressure begins to show signs of easing.
According to the minutes of the December 13-14 meeting released Wednesday, Fed officials expressed concerns that the labor market in particular remains exceptionally tight, contributing to an ongoing risk that inflation may remain at unacceptably high levels.
“The risks to the inflation outlook remained tilted to the upside,” Fed officials said, per the minutes. “Participants cited the possibility that price pressures could prove to be more persistent than anticipated, due to, for example, the labor market staying tight for longer than anticipated.”
Add in a host of other uncertainties – including the end of Covid-19 restrictions in China and the war in Ukraine – and the bias of Fed officials appears to point toward higher rates maintained for a longer time. “Participants generally observed that a restrictive policy stance would need to be maintained until the incoming data provided confidence that inflation was on a sustained downward path to 2 percent, which was likely to take some time,” the minutes say. “In view of the persistent and unacceptably high level of inflation, several participants commented that historical experience cautioned against prematurely loosening monetary policy.”
Although some Fed officials said they were worried about too much monetary tightening, which could push the economy into a recession, there was a consensus that further interest rate hikes by the Federal Open Market Committee would be necessary. And no officials said they expect to see rate cuts during 2023.
Ryan Sweet, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said the minutes suggest that “that the Fed is going to reduce inflation at the risk of hurting the labor market and the broader economy.”
Labor market strength: Separately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of job openings was little changed in December from the month before. The total of 10.5 million available positions was below the peak of 11.9 million recorded last March, but still well above historical norms. There were 1.8 jobs available for every unemployed person, down slightly from the high mark of 2 jobs per unemployed person.
“Such a high number of job openings suggests the economy is not yet in recession or close to falling into one,” writes the Associated Press’s Christopher Rugaber. “Typically businesses stop advertising job openings as the economy stumbles.”
One key metric — the rate at which workers are quitting their jobs, which is seen as a sign of labor market strength — turned higher after showing signs of cooling off in previous months. “The big story from this report is that quitting is no longer slowing down,” said economist Nick Bunker of Indeed. “The labor market is still giving lots of workers lots of opportunities to take new jobs. Hard to see a more significant moderation of wage growth without a cooldown in quitting.”
Analysts say the data will only strengthen the resolve of the Fed to press ahead in its war on inflation. “For Fed officials, these data support the view that rates need to move higher and will need to stay high for some time, to soften labor market conditions and lower prices back to target,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.
- McCarthy’s Losing Streak Hits Six Votes as GOP Holdouts Dig In – Bloomberg
- Chaos Grips US House as Rules Vanish for Chamber With No Speaker – Bloomberg
- Why Lawmakers Can Vote for House Speaker Before Taking Their Oath of Office – The Hill
- Biden World Both Humored and Terrified by McCarthy Meltdown – Politico
- Trump Urges Support for McCarthy, Warns GOP About Embarrassment – Washington Post
- House GOP Back in Familiar Pattern — Fury at the Freedom Caucus – Politico
- Fred Upton: Talk of Speaker Candidacy Is ‘Intriguing’ – The Hill
- Biden Praises McConnell, Touts Infrastructure Law in Kentucky – The Hill
- Biden and McConnell’s Visit to Kentucky Signals WH Roadmap for Next Two Years – Politico
- Steady Job Openings, Low Layoffs Raise Doubts About Recession Fears – The Hill
- Fed Officials Fretted That Markets Would Misread Rate Slowdown – New York Times
- New Covid Strain Is the Most Transmissible Yet, WHO Says – Politico
- Experts Urge Domestic Action Against Winter COVID Surge – The Hill
Views and Analysis
- The Republican Civil War? It’s On – Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg
- The GOP’s Chaos Caucus Returns – Wall Street Journal Editorial Board
- After Another Failed Vote, McCarthy’s Speaker Bid Is Starting to Look Pathetic – John F. Harris, Politico
- What the Kevin McCarthy Debacle Really Says About Republicans – Rich Lowry, Politico
- Kevin McCarthy Is a Victim of Republican Ingenuity – Jeff Greenfield, Politico
- Republicans Are in Power Without a Plan – Bloomberg Opinion Editors
- Trump Lit the Fire That’s Burning Down McCarthy’s House – Joshua Green, Bloomberg
- America’s Slowing Population Growth Is Here to Stay – Melissa Kearney, Financial Times
- The Job Market Struggles to Solve the Recession Puzzle – Kathryn Edwards, Bloomberg
- COVID 2023: Despite Life-Saving Victories, the Future Remains Uncertain – Saralyn Mark, The Hill
- Access to Oral Therapies for COVID-19: The Stubborn Reality of Geography – Dr. Peter Kahn, Dr. Xiaohan Ying and Dr. Stan Mathis, The Hill
- America Is a Sick Society—Literally – William A. Galston, Wall Street Journal