10.19.2023 0

If the Speaker Pro Tempore’s powers are expanded, Republicans might not get a Speaker

By Robert Romano

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is still short of the 217 votes he needs to become the next House Speaker, only garnering 199 votes on his second ballot, losing four votes but also picking up two votes from his first ballot, with 22 members now opposed to his becoming Speaker, with increased calls for Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry’s (R-N.C.) powers to be expanded in a bid resume the House’s floor proceeding and consider spending bills such as war funding for Ukraine and Israel.

At the moment, House leadership and McHenry have resisted these calls, instead gaveling the House session into recess after Jordan failed on the second ballot, wisely not opting to open the question to the House floor.

The truth is, once the House settles into rule by the Speaker Pro Tempore, there will be very little incentive for the holdouts, who include House Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas), to move in favor of a Republican Speaker, especially if the Congress continues spending money, leading to more votes on Ukraine and Israel funding and the next continuing resolution due on Nov. 17.

The impasse began with the removal of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) two weeks ago, with eight House Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) joining Democrats in deposing McCarthy, apparently without a plan to replace him.

Subsequent leadership elections first chose House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) after a vote failed require the conference nominee garner 217 votes in conference. Scalise allies pushed against that resolution, which turned off Jordan supporters to Scalise. Failing to get to 217, Scalise withdrew, and now many Scalise supporters including Granger are similarly holding out against Jordan, even as Republican leadership has largely embraced Jordan’s run.

Some members say there is nothing that will change their minds about Jordan. U.S. Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told TheHill.com: “The January 20 [against McCarthy] were all trying to extract something. it was transactional… The October 20 — I’ve talked to these people. There’s not an ask. There is nothing that the candidate can offer that can move these members from their positions.”

If so, that might deny Jordan the gavel, but ultimately, these members still want to pass legislation and get the House back into full session — especially the appropriators. In fact, there is something they want. The next Speaker must deliver the budget and all other spending and revenue matters to floor of the House, whatever form they may come in.

It is up to Jordan or another nominee to earn those members’ trust. A good question might be how great a price could appropriators extract in order to get the gavel. In part, it’s a game of ransom.

For now, it would appear foolish to offer the floor to a vote on expanding McHenry’s powers to placate those members who simply want to forego naming a Speaker, with the sole aim in consolidating these committees’ control over the power of the purse. Once the money spigots are back on, Republican leaders might have no leverage to move a permanent Speaker into power, regardless of who the nominee is.

Finally, leaders must also consider whether Jordan is Republicans’ last, best chance at having a Republican Speaker with the broad support of the conference, as future candidates are marred by reprisals from disaffected members who didn’t get their candidate of choice, increasing the odds that eventually, Democrats will broker a deal for a coalition government. For the GOP, leaders have to consider the real possibility that it might be Jordan, or bust.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

Copyright © 2008-2024 Americans for Limited Government