House finishes another week without a Speaker

On October 20, 2023, in Congressional News, by David Elrod

The House adjourned Friday after nearly three weeks without a Speaker. Rep. Kevin McCarthy was vacated as Speaker on October 3.

Before any bills can move forward, including funding the government for FY2024 and potentially providing aid for Israel, the House must select a new Speaker to replace McCarthy.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has assumed the temporary position of Speaker Pro Tempore, a position held in secrecy unless necessary and designed to provide continuity of government during the time of transition to the next Speaker. Due to the relative lack of historical precedent regarding the position, there is uncertainty as to whether McHenry can exercise the powers of Speaker, foremost of which is the power to bring bills to the floor, while he serves as Speaker Pro Tem. He has not attempted to exercise such powers and has said he does not consider the position to have that authority.

House Republicans this week briefly considered a resolution that would grant McHenry the powers of Speaker, including to refer bills to committee and move them through the floor, but decided against such a move without holding a vote on it. That likely would have required Democrats to vote with Republicans in order to get a majority of the chamber.

This week the House held three votes on the floor to select Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as Speaker, but each vote failed. House Republicans have held numerous, sometimes heated, closed-door meetings over the course of the week, and some members left Friday morning before the final Jordan floor vote.

The Jordan votes come after the House Republican conference held a secret vote to nominate Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) for Speaker, but Scalise withdrew from the race before a public vote was held on the House floor.

In addition to electing a Speaker, the House must pass FY2024 government funding by November 17 as well as address the now-expired 2018 Farm Bill. As of now, certain commodity provisions of the farm bill including price supports run through CY2023, but if Congress does not pass at least an extension of the 2018 Farm Bill by the end of the year, certain “permanent” farm bill provisions created in 1938 and 1949 will take effect. Such provisions would be disastrous to certain industries, such as the dairy industry, so Congress must pass some sort of extension before the end of the year.

However, just as they were the last two weeks, the House remains in limbo until a new Speaker is elected with a majority vote on the House floor.