Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Wednesday, October 11, 2023
Drama Continues in the House

Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) last major victory was to pass a seven-week continuing resolution (CR) H.R. 5860 on September 30 in the U.S. House with a vote of 335-91, which then cleared the Senate  88-9. Nine Senate Republicans voted against the measure, however. The law keeps the government operating until November 17, bringing federal workers and government contractors a sigh of relief that federal operations and their pay could continue uninterrupted.

However, drama continued to unfold on Monday, October 2, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filing a motion to vacate that evening to remove Speaker McCarthy from office. McCarthy called a vote the next day. A simple majority of House members present could have defeated Gaetz’s effort. However, that was not to be even as Republican after Republican stood up to defend McCarthy’s efforts in the 118th Congress of keeping conservative Republican ideals moving forward. They also argued that removing him would not serve the American people and would plunge the House into further chaos.  Gaetz said the chaos was caused by situations such as the $33 trillion debt and not passing spending bills one-by-one but instead relying on a CR from the old playbook.

On agreeing to  H. Res. 757 to declare the Speaker position as vacant, Roll Call 519 – 216-210, McCarthy is the first Speaker in U.S. history to be removed. The eight Republicans who voted for McCarthy’s removal were Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Ken Buck (CO), Tim Burchett (TN), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Bob Good (Va.), Nancy Mace (SC), and Matt Rosendale (MT), along with all of the 208 House Democrats in attendance. According to the “House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House, the Speaker is required to submit a confidential list to the Clerk of People “in the order in which each shall act as Speaker pro tempore in the case of a vacancy.” Immediately after the vote, the first name on that list becomes the interim speaker. This was Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a long-time friend of McCarthy’s and current chair of the House Financial Services Committee. His first order of business is the election of a new speaker. The House will have to vote as many times as it takes to determine the next speaker.

The House is adjourned until Tuesday, October 10. On Tuesday evening, Republicans will hold a candidate forum for the position. The plan is to start voting for the new speaker on Wednesday, October 11. Who could become the next House Speaker will eat up time on the legislative calendar as this becomes a priority over passing on the House floor each of the 12 appropriations bills. So far, only the Defense (H.R. 4365), Homeland Security (H.R. 4367), Military Construction (H.R. 4366) and State-Foreign Operations (H.R. 4665) spending bills have passed on the House floor. The House Agriculture spending bill (H.R. 4366) failed on the House floor by a vote of 191-237 on September 28. The Energy-Water bill (H.R. 4394) was brought to the House floor for amendments to be voted upon when the privileged resolution of the motion to vacate the Speaker’s office took priority over other House business. The 60 amendments made in order for House floor consideration of the Energy-Water bill can be found here, which includes Rosendale amendment #58 to cut funding to the bill by $1.553 billion to match FY 2022 funding level, bringing the Office of Science—the nation’s largest funder of the physical sciences—back to $7.745 billion instead of the current FY 2023 funding level of $8.1 billion. The Senate Appropriations Committee is seeking $8.4 billion for this office in FY 2024.

Meanwhile, the Senate is not in session and will return on Monday, October 16. None of the Senate’s appropriations bills have come to the Senate floor.