Washington Update

Inside (the Beltway) Scoop

By: Ellen Kuo
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Republican-led House Elects Mike Johnson as Speaker; 209 Democrats Vote Against Him

As the November 17 expiration date of the “continuing resolution” that is currently funding the government approaches, Republicans in the House are working to determine their strategy for choosing a new House Speaker. Majority Leader Steve Scalise withdrew his name from consideration after receiving 113–99 votes as the GOP nominee, moving Jim Jordan’s (R-OH) name up higher on the list as the only viable candidate. However, garnering 217 votes to become speaker has proven not to be an easy task for anyone. Until this position is filled, legislative work on appropriations is stalled as the House operates under the designated Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry.

On October 17, the first round of votes for House Speaker took place. During RC vote 521, Jordan received only 200 votes falling short of the 217 votes he needed to obtain the majority of the House. McCarthy supported Jim Jordan as did the chairs of key appropriations subcommittees (Labor, Health and Human Services, Commerce, Justice and Science, Energy and Water, Military Construction, and Agriculture-Food and Drug Administration). Votes can be seen here. However, House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger (R-TX) voted for Scalise. Republicans who voted for him in the first round were not guaranteed to continue to do so which happened in round two with Jordan losing 22 Republicans instead of 20 on the second vote, demonstrating that his support was eroding.

With the second try (RC Vote 523), no person received a majority of the 433 members present—all of whom voted. Tom Cole (R-OK) put Jordan forward as the GOP nominee for Speaker. The outcome was Jordan received 199 votes and Hakeem Jeffries 212. Other names received one or more votes including Granger, former member of Congress John Boehner, and Rep. Tom Emmer (Majority Whip). House Appropriations Committee Chair Granger again voted for Scalise. Twenty-two GOP lawmakers were against Jordan. On the third ballot under RC vote 525, he failed again to win the majority of the 429 votes cast receiving only 194 votes while Jeffries received 210. This time 25 Republicans cast their votes for someone else. Jordon then decided to stop seeking the spot and nine Republicans lined up to seek the nomination of the GOP, including Reps. Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Mike Johnson (R-LA). Although Emmer initially won the support of enough Republicans to win the nomination, he was unable to secure the necessary 217 votes to become Speaker. On October 25, Mike Johnson finally claimed the Speaker’s gavel after a majority of Republicans indicated they would vote for him on the floor.

The resolution of the Speaker race came as pressure mounted for the House to be able to function after the White House last week released its $106 billion request to Congress for supplemental funding. The request included $61.4 billion for Ukraine, $14.3 billion for Israel, $9.15 billion in humanitarian assistance, and $6.4 billion for border security, among other areas. This was hours after the president addressed the nation about the need to support U.S. allies and protect democracy.

Also, the Senate returned last week to continue working on its appropriations bills for further floor consideration. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said there was agreement on as many as 39 amendments to be offered during consideration of the FY 2024 Military Construction-VA (S. 2127), Agriculture (S. 2131), and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (H.R. 2437) appropriations bills. This three-bill minibus utilizes House bill H.R. 4366 as the vehicle. However, there is still controversy over some poison pill amendments. One is an amendment related to protecting gun rights for veterans that Democrats are opposing.

In other news, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee finally held its nomination hearing with Monica Bertagnolli as the nominee for the NIH director position. FASEB sent a letter to HELP Committee leadership urging the Senate to swiftly confirm her as director. She was confirmed by the Senate committee on Wednesday, October 25.