5 min read

Who will be the next speaker?

Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise face off as House Republicans gather to pick their speaker candidate.
Who will be the next speaker?
Jim Jordan (left) and Steve Scalise (right). Photos by Gage Skidmore.

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, October 11, 2023. The 2024 elections are 391 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

House Republicans will meet at 10 a.m. ET today to nominate their candidate for speaker of the House.

The two candidates are House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH). To receive the Republican nomination, a candidate would typically need to win a simple majority of the GOP conference (currently 111 votes); to become speaker, that candidate would then need to win a simple majority of the whole House (currently 217 votes) in a chamber-wide vote on the floor.

However, before voting on a nominee today, the Republican conference will consider a rules change proposed by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX).

The change would raise the threshold for the conference nomination to 217 votes — which means the GOP would continue voting on a candidate behind closed doors until they have someone they know can win on the floor. That would prevent a repeat of the drawn-out floor speakership election in January, ensuring that any lengthy balloting process takes place out of public view. The House GOP — which is currently deeply fractured — would settle their divisions privately, and then march to the floor united, however long that might take.

Jordan supports the proposed rules change, while Scalise opposes it.

This could take a while — especially if that proposal is adopted — so settle in.

Neither Jordan nor Scalise has much of an advantage. According to a whip count by FiveThirtyEight, Jordan leads Scalise in public endorsements — but the vast majority of GOP lawmakers have not expressed a preference. (The voting, at least initially, is also done by secret ballot, so lawmakers are not bound to their endorsements.)

Theoretically, Republicans could nominate a speaker this morning and then head to the floor as early as today for the full House vote. But, considering the state of the House GOP, some lawmakers are steeling themselves for a much more complicated process. Asked the odds that the House has a speaker in place by the end of the day, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) told the New York Times: “I’d put it at 2 percent.”

Kevin McCarthy is also waiting in the wings, threatening to throw a wrench into everything.

After he seemed to toy on Monday with the idea of again pursuing the gavel, a group of House Republicans had been planning to nominate the ex-speaker today in conference. On Tuesday, McCarthy told them not to nominate him, but at least one Republican still says they plan to vote for the ex-speaker in protest of his ouster.

If the Roy proposal is adopted, and the House GOP finds itself locked in several rounds of voting, McCarthy could materialize again as an option — even though he is the one Republican we know cannot get 217 votes on the floor. He could also impact the voting by endorsing one of the candidates, which could swing a considerable bloc of votes in their direction.

As the Washington Post reported yesterday, McCarthy has long and complicated histories with both Jordan and Scalise. McCarthy and Scalise have served in GOP leadership together for almost a decade — but their relationship has long been marked by distrust. Jordan, meanwhile, spent much of his time in Congress as a thorn in McCarthy’s side, only for the two to become close allies in recent years.

Many close observers of House politics interpreted McCarthy floating a comeback speakership bid as a snub at Scalise, his longtime deputy.

Ideologically, Jordan is the most conservative of the trio. Last month, Jordan voted against the stopgap spending bill that led to McCarthy’s ouster, while Scalise and McCarthy voted for it. Around the same time, Jordan also voted against a $300 million aid package for Ukraine that Scalise and McCarthy supported.

All three men are allies and supporters of Donald Trump — although Trump endorsed Jordan for speaker (after ruling out a run of his own).

According to Politico, at a candidate forum last night, neither Jordan nor Scalise gave a straight answer when asked whether Trump won the 2020 election. Both candidates voted against certifying the 2020 election results.

While the GOP is mired in divisions, House Democrats have remained largely united. The party met last night to nominate their candidate for speaker, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).

The vote was unanimous; it took seven minutes.

More news to know.

Television coverage of Biden’s speech on Israel. (Wolf Blitzer / Twitter)

The latest from Israel:


The day ahead.

White House: President Biden will deliver remarks at 11:45 a.m. ET on new administration actions to combat “junk fees.” Later today, he will drop by a roundtable with Jewish community leaders to deliver remarks on his support for Israel.

Congress: The Senate is on recess. The House could vote on its next speaker.

Supreme Court: The justices will hear oral arguments in a South Carolina redistricting case.

Before I go...

Here’s a headline/disclosure combination for the ages: From the Washington Post...

Asked to respond to the column, Scott told CBS News: “I would say baseball is a good sport,” referring to the author’s favorite pastime.

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