Speaker fight unravels
And here comes the new congressional map for NC
The last time you heard from me, I was at the airport headed to D.C.
Now I’m back at the airport, headed home.
In between, the House took zero votes.
Last week, as you recall, the speaker was fired. First time in history.
This week we were supposed to elect a new speaker.
The first step isn’t a vote of the full House - it’s an internal vote within the majority party to pick its nominee for speaker. It’s done by secret ballot.
Two people ran: Scalise and Jordan.
Scalise won by a handful of votes.
So we all figured we were about to be called to the House floor for a vote, but before that could happen, roughly 20 members of the majority said they didn’t feel bound by the outcome of the internal vote and would refuse to vote for Scalise on the floor.
Scalise could only lose four votes from his party, so 20 meant he was sunk.
He tried to save it and spent a day poking and prodding those folks, but to no avail. He realized there wasn’t a path, so he withdrew.
Jordan immediately started making phone calls. As the one who came in second, he was going to run again.
A new internal vote was held. It was Jordan versus someone who openly said he didn’t want to be speaker and was just running as a vehicle to let people in his party oppose Jordan.
Jordan won, but the other guy got 81 votes.
So they held a second vote, still by secret ballot. “Would you support Jordan for speaker on the floor?”
55 members still said no.
Once again, it became clear that, at least for the moment, the majority party’s nominee had no path.
So they sent us all home.
As I write this, there’s some talk that Jordan may just give it a shot anyway, call a floor vote when we come back next week, and kick off another series of speaker votes like the experience from January that we all remember so fondly.
There’s also talk that, if he truly can’t see a path, he’ll step aside. But no one knows who else would have a better shot than McCarthy, Scalise, and Jordan.
Which brings us to the exotic scenarios.
Well Jeff, it only takes five Republicans voting with all the Democrats to elect Hakeem Jeffries as speaker.
That’s true, but those five Republicans would be immediately kicked out of their party and become the target of an avalanche of foaming, seething hatred by members of their former party that would be difficult to overstate. So that feels unlikely.
Ok then, what if a handful of Democrats join all the Republicans to elect a speaker they can both tolerate?
This is worth exploring. While it still feels exotic, it’s at least plausible. And frankly, the longer this piano continues to crash down the stairs, the more plausible it becomes.
But imagine, for a moment, that you are running for Speaker. You’re down, say, 10 votes in your own party. So you say to your party, “Hey everyone, I appreciate the support. Looks like we’re almost there. I’m just going to head over to the other party real quick and get the rest of the votes I need.”
Well… suddenly, you’re not down 10 votes anymore. Now you’re down dozens and dozens because you just infuriated your whole party.
This is why McCarthy knew he couldn’t even ask the minority party for some votes. As soon as his party heard about it, he’d be toast. For those saying, “Democrats could have saved him,” my sense is that they are underestimating how massively unpopular that plan would have been within Republican ranks, and how that would have undercut whatever support had come from Democrats.
To be clear, I’d love to resolve this in bipartisan fashion. If there’s a real opportunity to do that, I think you will see lots of folks in the minority party go for it. Frankly, it’s to our benefit to have a speaker with whom we can work. But as things stand, the majority party simply is not desperate enough to allow one of their members to be elected on the basis of votes from the other party. But that may change.
Also - small note - the government is currently set to shut down in 34 days.
One more thing:
The rumor is that North Carolina will finally see our new congressional map next week. The state legislature told everyone they were going to draw it in secret, and that’s what they’ve done. I haven’t seen it or heard from anyone who has. You and I will find out at the same time what it holds for me and some other members, and I’ll let you know.