5 min read

Biden touches down in Israel

Biden arrives in Tel Aviv while the House remains without a speaker.
Biden touches down in Israel
President Biden meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning. (Tyler Pager / Twitter)

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, October 18, 2023. The 2024 elections are 441 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

First things first: Yesterday, I told you that it might be the day the House would be getting a new speaker. Well, reader, the House did not get a new speaker.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) ended up receiving 200 votes in his quest to claim the gavel, fewer than Kevin McCarthy received two weeks ago and well short of the 217 votes required.

In total, 20 Republicans defected. Seven of them voted for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), six voted for McCarthy, and three voted for former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.). House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), and Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) also received one vote each. None of these individuals were running for the office.

Meanwhile, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) received 212 votes, more than anyone else.

Many of the Republican defectors were members of the powerful Appropriations Committee (including the panel’s chair, Kay Granger), revenge for Jordan’s role in fomenting past government shutdowns. Jordan, the Trump-endorsed ultra-conservative, led an intense pressure campaign to flip his colleagues, which appeared to backfire. He also clashed with Scalise on Tuesday, a fight that will hardly help his path to 217.

The House is set to vote again at around 11 a.m. ET this morning, although there are no indications that Jordan has changed enough minds to prevent another deadlock. Per Punchbowl News, if Jordan fails again, Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) is expected to offer a resolution to grant Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) the full powers of the speakership on an interim basis — which would allow the House to get back to work and punt the speaker fight for later.

The idea of empowering McHenry has been endorsed by three former Republican House speakers: Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan.

The other major story to track this morning: President Joe Biden has touched down in Tel Aviv, the first time an American commander-in-chief has visited Israel while the country is at war.

Tensions in the region ratcheted even higher yesterday after Palestinian officials said that an explosion at a hospital in Gaza killed at least 500 people. Hamas has blamed an Israeli airstrike for the blast, while Israel says that it was the result of a failed rocket attack by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-largest armed group in Gaza after Hamas.

President Biden — who said Tuesday that he is “outraged and deeply saddened” by the explosion, condemning the loss of civilian life — signaled this morning that he accepts Israel’s account. “It appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” Biden said while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the hours after the blast, protests broke out across the Middle East, while King Abdullah II of Jordan canceled a planned summit between Biden, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. Biden will no longer travel to Jordan as part of his trip.

These two stories are not disconnected. Per Bloomberg, Biden is preparing to request a $100 billion supplemental package from Congress that would provide aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, while also boosting border security funding.

But without a House speaker in place — or at least more formal clarification of McHenry’s role — Congress would be unable to respond.

David Joyce, the Ohio Republican who is pushing to empower McHenry instead of continuing to vote on a new speaker, explicitly tied the two matters together while speaking to reporters this morning.

“After two weeks without a speaker...and no clear candidate with 217 votes in the Republican conference, it is time to look at other viable options,” he said. “By empowering Patrick McHenry as speaker pro tempore, we can take care of our ally Israel until a new speaker is elected.

More news to know.

Debbie Lesko is stepping down. (Gage Skidmore)

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) announced Tuesday that she will retire from Congress after just three terms in office. “Right now, Washington, D.C. is broken; it is hard to get anything done,” she said in her statement.

The U.S. secretly delivered long-range ATACMS missiles to Ukraine, which used them for the first time on Tuesday to launch a surprise attack against nine Russian helicopters.

Get ready to pay up: X, the former Twitter, plans to begin charging new users $1 a year.

Quote of the day.

CNN’s Dana Bash: “You did not vote for Congressman Jim Jordan, instead voting for Tom Emmer. Well, I guess my first question is: Do you really want Tom Emmer to be speaker?”

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.): “No, I don’t. I don’t like Tom Emmer. I figured this would be the worst job in America. Mike Rowe would not want to do this for his TV show. It’s a terrible job.”

Bash: “OK, so just to underscore that: you voted for somebody because you don’t like them.”

Click the play button above to watch.

The day ahead.

Ambassador nominee Jack Lew will testify before the Senate today. (Brookings Institution)

Biden in Tel Aviv: President Biden is set to meet with officials in Israel. A planned Jordan leg of the trip has been canceled.

Déjà vu in the House: The House will gavel in today at 11 a.m. ET and hold another vote for speaker.

Senate moves on Lew: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing at 10:30 a.m. ET on Jack Lew’s nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Lew’s nomination has been expedited since the Israel-Hamas war began.

All 100 senators have also been invited to attend a classified briefing on the war this afternoon, featuring Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and other officials.

Thanks for reading.

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— Gabe