House GOP Speaker Chaos Enters Next Phase

House GOP Speaker Chaos Enters Next Phase

Rep. Tom Emmer is considered the frontunner in the GOP's latest speaker race
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Monday, October 23, 2023

Good evening. House Republicans are gathered tonight to heard from their nine — nine! — candidates for speaker. Here’s where things stand.

Nine GOP Candidates Race to Be Speaker, With No Clear Path to 217 Votes

As of tomorrow, the House will have gone three full weeks without a speaker. Nine Republicans now vying for the job are trying to win over their colleagues at a forum this evening ahead of a conference vote tomorrow. A floor vote by the full House is possible later this week.

The nine candidates are Reps. Jack Bergman of Michigan; Byron Donalds of Florida; Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the House majority whip; Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, chairman of the Republican Study Committee; Mike Johnson of Louisiana, vice chairman of the House Republican Conference; Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania; Gary Palmer of Alabama, Republican Policy Committee chairman; and Austin Scott of Georgia.

Emmer, the No. 3 House Republican, is considered the frontrunner, but he’s one of only two speaker candidates to have voted to certify the 2020 presidential election results — Scott is the other — and has run afoul of Trumpworld. None of the nine appears to have a clear path to the 217 votes needed.

This can’t go on: With a November 17 deadline to fund the government approaching and with pressure building to provide additional support for Israel and humanitarian aid to Gaza, the GOP gridlock can’t drag on much longer.

“Enough Republicans plus 212 Democrats are out of patience. They want the House back in business ASAP, however it’s done,” Punchbowl News reports. If Republicans can’t get behind a new speaker-designee, moderate GOP lawmakers will look again to empower Speaker Pro Tempore Partick McHenry, working with Democrats as needed.

“The reality is that GOP leaders are going to need Democratic support to avoid a shutdown, pass a new farm bill, reauthorize the FAA or do anything at this point,” Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan noted. “So basically, House Republicans are at their last gasp this week. Either they unite behind a speaker or a number of their members will go to the floor and seek Democratic backing to break the stalemate.”

This is an embarrassment: “This is embarrassing for the Republican Party, it’s embarrassing for the nation, and we need to look at one another and solve the problem,” former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that it’s more than just embarrassing: “The world’s on fire. This is so dangerous, what we’re doing. And most importantly, it’s embarrassing because it empowers and emboldens our adversaries like Chairman Xi [Jinping] who says, you know, democracy doesn’t work.”

Americans are tired of it: Two-thirds of registered voters in a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll said that the House should pick a speaker ASAP. "How often do you see Democrats, Republicans, and independents agree on anything in D.C.?" David Paleologos, director of Suffolk's Political Research Center, told USA Today. "Look at every demographic: gender, geography, age, race, education level, income, political philosophy, even those who trust CNN vs Fox News. They are all speaking the same seven words in unison: 'Elect a speaker and do your job.'"

We should note, though, that the pollsters also gave respondents the option of choosing: “I don't care if Congress elects a speaker. Every day that goes by without a speaker means that Congress can't waste more of our tax dollars.” A quarter of those surveyed picked that option, including 34% of Republicans.

The poll also found that 61% of voters want Congress to negotiate a compromise to avoid a government shutdown, compared with 31% who want lawmakers to stand firm on demands for spending cuts even if it results in a shutdown. That 31%, however, includes a 55% majority of conservatives. Only 37% of those on the right favor a compromise deal to keep the government open.

But the House turmoil might be a blessing: This national embarrassment “could prove to be a blessing because it’s exposing a crisis in our politics that must be confronted,” writes liberal Washington Post Columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. “The endless battle for the speakership is already encouraging new thinking and might yet lead to institutional arrangements to allow bipartisan majorities to work their will. … Normal progressives and normal conservatives, in alliance with politicians closer to the center, are discovering a shared interest in keeping the nihilist right far from the levers of power.”

Then again, this is the party of Trump: “As national Democrats largely stand behind President Biden and his agenda — more united than in years — Republicans are divided, directionless and effectively leaderless,” Lisa Lerer and Michael C. Bender write at The New York Times. Trump’s domination of the party has resulted in “an endless loop of chaos that even some Republicans say once again threatens to define the party’s brand heading into an election in which Republicans — after struggling to meet the basic responsibilities of governing the House of Representatives — will ask voters to also put them in charge of the Senate and the White House.”

But Trump’s sway also may mean that congressional disruptors suffer little in the way of consequences. “With a broad swath of the conservative base firmly behind the former president, there may be little political cost in causing chaos,” Lerer and Bender note. “The eight Republicans who voted to oust Mr. McCarthy, for example, are likely to face no backlash for plunging the party into disarray. As their message is amplified across conservative media, they’re more likely to see their political stars rise, with a boost in fund-raising and attention.”

The winner, if there is one, might be hastening their political demise: “Whoever navigates us through these difficult waters, which will be shrapnel filled, they may need to give up their own political career for the good of this country,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota, chairman of the Republican Main Street Caucus, according to the Associated Press.

Biden Designates 31 Tech Hubs in US

The Biden administration announced Monday the locations of 31 tech hubs across the country that will receive funding to boost key industries including semiconductors, clean energy and artificial intelligence.

The tech hubs program was authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act, a $280 billion tech-focused piece of legislation that received bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2022. Overall, the program – formally called the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub Program – will distribute $500 million.

In remarks delivered at the White House, Biden said the tech hub program is a key part of “Bidenomics” — his effort to revive manufacturing and boost the middle class in the U.S. “We’re doing this from coast to coast, in the heartland, in red states and blue states, small towns, cities of all sizes,” he said. “All this is part of my strategy to invest in America and invest in Americans. It’s working. We’re creating good jobs in communities all across the country.”

The 31 tech hubs are located across 32 states and Puerto Rico. Examples cited by the White House include the Tulsa Hub for Equitable & Trustworthy Autonomy in Oklahoma, the Headwaters Hub in Montana, Heartland BioWorks in Indiana and the Greater Philadelphia Region Precision Medicine Tech Hub in Pennsylvania.

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