By Robert Willmann
Sure enough, once again Speaker pro tempore of the U.S. House of Representatives Patrick McHenry put the session in recess on Wednesday, 18 October 2023, without allowing additional rounds of voting, after a second vote for a new Speaker ended with Jim Jordan getting 199 votes from Republicans. Every single one of the 212 Democrats, as before, voted against him, and a smattering of resentful Republicans also voted against him.
What is evolving is a 3-way game of chicken between Jordan and his large number of Republican supporters; all of the Democrats; and 22 Republicans, some of whom are clutching knives to try to get revenge for Kevin McCarthy being booted out as Speaker back on 3 October, and for Steve Scalise being thwarted in his effort to get enough support from fellow Republicans to become Speaker. When Scalise got a narrow majority in a meeting of Republicans on 11 October, he tried to gather additional support to go to a vote on the floor, but was unsuccessful, and formally dropped out the next day . Jordan then stepped in.
The Acting Clerk of the House of Representatives on 2 October 2023 compiled a list of House members. The total is 433, because David Cicilline of the Rhode Island 1st District (Dem) and Chris Stewart of the Utah 2nd District (Repub) resigned in 2023 and a successor has not been sworn in. This is the first page of his list–
With the Democrats marching in lockstep with 212, Jordan (or someone else) will need 217 votes, because the total number of Republicans is 221, with a full quorum of the House. Thus, a Republican candidate can only lose four Republican votes in order to maintain 217 and be elected Speaker.
In the first public vote on 17 October, Jordan received 200 votes. For the quorum call, Republican Gus Bilirakis of Florida did not show up. Of the remaining Republicans, 20 did not vote for Jordan, with the main knife wielders being Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who got 7 votes, and Kevin McCarthy of California, who got 6 votes. Lee Zeldin, who is no longer in Congress from New York, got 3 votes from New York Republicans Nick LaLota, Andrew Garbarino, and Anthony D’Esposito. The final 4 — Ellzey, Buck, James, and Spartz — voted for separate individuals.
In the next day’s vote on 18 October, Jordan got 199 votes. This time everyone appeared, as Donald Payne of New Jersey (Dem) did not show up for the quorom call but did for the vote. The 212 Democrats were present and voted against Jordan. As on the previous day, Scalise received 7 votes and Zeldin 3, and McCarthy got 5, because Doug LaMalfa of California left him to go to Jordan. Three of the voters who voted for individuals other than Jordan did so again, as did 4 others. Thus, there were 22 Republicans against Jordan on 18 October, but Jordan received 199 votes instead of 198 because Bilirakis showed up to vote for him.
Here are the two recorded roll call votes–
Looking at the vote to remove McCarthy as Speaker on 3 October 2023, all the Democrats present voted to remove him along with 8 Republicans. Four Democrats and 3 Republicans did not vote. The result was 216-210.
You can see from this material what a tight and fluid situation this is. The procedural rules of the House give the Speaker exceptional authority. That was one of the issues that caused the protracted selection process for Kevin McCarthy, and some things were modified that could change the modern equivalent of the smoke-filled back room. Unfortunately, some House Democrats will not think and act independently on the selection of a Speaker. As long as they let themselves be beaten down by the Democratic leadership, everything shifts to five Republicans being able to block a new Republican Speaker. In this context, I think that the Democrats are missing an opportunity to help get a Speaker who can address the extremely difficult economic situtuation facing the “middle class” and “working people”, who have been abandoned by the Democratic Party.
Earlier today an effort was made to force an agreement to let Patrick McHenry stay on longer as Speaker pro tempore, to preside over legislation for the time being. Although a Republican, he is a close friend of McCarthy and was very angry that his friend, who had appointed him as Speaker pro tempore if required, was removed. This would have brought about more Uni-Party activity. But that effort has fizzled out.
Jim Jordan has decided to continue the fight to be Speaker. After all, he has had right at 200 votes behind him.
As always, art and music best illustrate all things. This 1972 pop music hit by the O’Jays shines a light on the United States Congress. The Back Stabbers–