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Happy Thursday morning.
It seems as if reality is finally beginning to creep into Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) orbit.
Over back-to-back days, the Ohio Republican suffered humiliating defeats on the House floor in his bid for the speaker’s gavel. On Tuesday, 20 GOP lawmakers voted against Jordan. A day later, he lost 22 Republican votes.
Put simply, the votes aren’t moving toward Jordan, they’re moving away from him. He has no path to the speaker’s chair — and most Republicans understand that. In fact, there are many in Jordan’s circle who have taken to asking reporters what the Ohio Republican is thinking by staying in the race.
Here are a few things we’ve picked up on during the last few days that could become the off-ramp for Jordan’s faltering speaker bid.
First, Jordan met privately in the Capitol on Wednesday with former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry. They’re in close contact and, to the extent Jordan has a strategy, McCarthy and McHenry are somewhat read into it.
Jordan hates to lose. His entire brand is wrapped up in fighting liberals and being a winner. That’s why Jordan doesn’t want to go through a third roll-call vote on the floor, especially when he could lose even more votes, according to more than a half-dozen sources involved in the talks. Jordan’s office denies this, saying he plans to move forward with trying to become speaker.
But at the same time, House Republican leaders feel as if they can no longer hold back members who want to elect McHenry speaker pro tem for the next roughly 80 days. These GOP lawmakers are desperate to get back to work after more than two weeks of humiliating Republican infighting that has cost them one speaker already.
This resolution — penned by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) — would likely pass overwhelmingly. House Democrats have signaled they’ll vote for it. GOP leadership sources tell us they believe a majority of House Republicans would too.
Passing the resolution would allow Jordan to effectively end his campaign for speaker without formally dropping out. Jordan can pledge to continue his run for speaker once McHenry’s term is up in January.
This probably also keeps the other GOP speaker aspirants — Reps. Kevin Hern (Okla.), Mike Johnson (La.) and Jodey Arrington (Texas), none of whom have a chance to get to 217 votes — at bay
Electing McHenry as speaker pro tem would allow him to oversee the passage of government-funding bills and aid to Israel and possibly Ukraine over the next few months without the usual internal political pressures facing a GOP speaker. Democrats would likely protect McHenry on a motion-to-vacate if hardline Republicans try to take him out, Democratic sources tell us.
This could all go sideways, of course. House Republicans are likely to meet behind closed doors today to discuss where the conference goes from here.
But as of late Wednesday, this is what most senior House Republican sources were insisting is Jordan’s best option.
Conservatives are going to freak out, however. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) tweeted twice about this Wednesday night, saying the move is unconstitutional, could cause political fallout and will empower Democrats.
Roy’s complaint isn’t accurate, at least in some ways. There’s nothing unconstitutional or improper about electing a speaker pro tem, as we pointed out in our AM edition Wednesday.
The Texas Republican is right, however, in that this could make it easier for the House to pass Ukraine aid or an emergency supplemental package that isn’t offset. The stranglehold that conservative hardliners have over the chamber would be broken.
Yet these hardliners have lost a lot of sway inside the conference after this disaster.
New leadership dynamics. The plan we’ve described would make for some incredibly fascinating dynamics inside the GOP leadership.
McHenry and Jordan. Jordan will be the Republican speaker designate — as meaningless as that is — while McHenry would be the speaker pro tem. McHenry will be a useful foil for Jordan under this scenario. McHenry can do what needs to be done legislatively while Jordan dumps all over it. This was the dynamic in 2015 when former Speaker John Boehner “cleaned the barn” before resigning from Congress following years of conservative attacks. Paul Ryan, on the brink of the speakership, sharply criticized it.
McHenry and Scalise. Where do we begin here? McHenry and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise were once close allies. But they’ve drifted apart in recent years as McHenry moved closer to McCarthy. Having McHenry now ranking above Scalise at the same leadership table will present some very interesting dynamics.
Threats and intimidation. Several GOP lawmakers went public Wednesday with complaints about death threats and other intimidation aimed at them and their staff after voting against Jordan for speaker. Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) all issued statements. Jordan and his allies have used conservative media to pressure colleagues to back his bid for speaker. Jordan condemned the threats toward members, but it still hurt his efforts inside the conference to win over wayward Republicans.
— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
TODAY: We’re discussing the future of cybersecurity with Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) at 8:30 a.m. ET. To join us in person or on the livestream, RSVP here.
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Biden, Senate set stage for massive national security funding package
When President Joe Biden addresses the nation tonight, he won’t just be talking about the war in Israel.
Biden will use the Oval Office speech to make a broader case for his forthcoming supplemental funding request. That request will touch on a number of national-security priorities — from Europe to the Middle East to the Indo-Pacific. As we reported this week, the package is expected to come in at around $100 billion.
Senators from both parties see the White House’s announcement — a presidential address on the U.S. response to Hamas’ attacks on Israel and Russia’s assault on Ukraine — as a necessary effort to show the violent conflicts are part of a broader struggle.
“If Putin’s successful in Ukraine, he’ll keep going. It’ll be a green light for China to attack Taiwan. And if Iran comes out of this mass attack on Israel stronger, not weaker, then there will be more coming from Iran,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told us. “So the outcome of these conflicts matter greatly to our national security.”
Biden’s speech also comes a day after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a similar argument when asked about the effort to pair the two into one funding package — that the wars in Israel and Ukraine are “interconnected.”
While McConnell has been critical of what he calls Biden’s slow transfer of sophisticated American weapons to Ukraine, he and the president are on the same page when it comes to the importance of U.S. support for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.
Republicans who support all three — an increasingly rare bunch given the conservative opposition to Ukraine aid — are starting to call out their colleagues more directly for singling out Ukraine for criticism.
“Intellectually, I’ve been challenging them to explain to me why they support Israel but not Ukraine — beyond domestic politics as their reason,” Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) told us. “I’m open to a thoughtful response to that. But I haven’t really heard it.”
Conservatives who oppose Ukraine aid, meanwhile, see the joining of Israel and Taiwan funding with Ukraine as an effort to bully them into backing the least popular of the three — Ukraine.
“It’s probably, frankly, a little realpolitik,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a Ukraine opponent, said of the strategy. “I think they’re trying to take something where there’s broad public support — Israel — and trying to get Ukraine with it and do it all at one time, and not have a separate package where they have to talk about the merits of Ukraine.”
Classified Israel briefing: Senators who attended a classified briefing on the Israel war Wednesday told us they still have no clarity on Iran’s possible role in the planning of Hamas’ terror attacks on Israel.
According to multiple attendees, top officials told senators that while Hamas couldn’t exist without Tehran, the U.S. intelligence community is still assessing Iran’s specific part — if any — in the planning of the horrific attacks on Israel.
“The issue of what [Iran] knew and how much about this attack — it’s still being debated,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) told us following the briefing.
But Sullivan called out the Biden team for what he dubbed an “appeasement” strategy toward Iran, calling it a “shit show.” Sullivan is referring to the administration’s previous attempts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Jack Lew — the ambassador-designate to Israel — signaled Wednesday is no longer viable.
Multiple senators also indicated to us after the briefing that they expect the administration will soon publicly release intelligence information proving Israel didn’t bomb the hospital in Gaza City as initially alleged. The briefers emphasized that misinformation about the tragedy is dangerous because it has fueled unrest in the region.
“Clearly there are some press outlets that are not friendly to the U.S. or not friendly at all to Israel that are simply not showing or telling the full story,” Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) told us. “We can rebut that by being more forward-leaning on the intel.”
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said bluntly that the public should be able to see the information that led Biden and senior administration officials to conclude that Israel wasn’t responsible for the deadly incident.
“I think that’s forthcoming,” Tillis added. “We need to lay it out there with pictures, graphs and charts. And I think that ultimately the administration will do that.”
— Andrew Desiderio
Dems seethe over Tlaib, Omar’s Israel comments
House Democrats are once again locked in an internal struggle over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after a number of vocal left-wing voices in the caucus diverged from the White House’s stance on a key flashpoint in the Israel-Hamas war.
Pro-Israel Democrats are incensed that Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) blamed Israel for a deadly attack on a Gaza City hospital this week. Palestinian officials said hundreds of civilians died in the incident, leading to a wave of international protests against Israel and the United States.
However, the National Security Council has assessed that Israel isn’t responsible for the explosion, a conclusion that President Joe Biden has publicly reiterated. Leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees repeated this, as well. Omar, for her part, issued an update on Wednesday evening admitting that according to U.S. intelligence, Israel wasn’t behind the attack.
Privately, some Jewish Democrats have complained to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries’ team about Tlaib and Omar’s comments on the incident. Others are publicly lambasting the pair.
“It’s stunning to me that in the face of our own country’s intelligence that they did not take those statements down,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told us. DWS went after Tlaib and Omar for calling for a ceasefire “rather than criticizing and training their ire and their anger at the terrorist organization that perpetrated this.”
“It is outrageous, the rush to judgment about a terrorist organization with clear intent to disseminate falsehoods and wreak havoc and drive violence,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) added. “To disseminate falsehoods after it is clear that they are falsehoods is at best irresponsible, if not intentional to causal.”
Jeffries told reporters Wednesday he hadn’t seen Tlaib and Omar’s posts and wouldn’t say whether they should be deleted. In a follow-up statement, Jeffries spokesperson Christie Stephenson said there is evidence the blast was “a result of an errant rocket fired by the Islamic Jihad.”
“It is shameful but not surprising that Hamas would propagate misinformation and recklessly inflame passions here in America and throughout the world,” Stephenson added.
Even Senate Democrats like progressive Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.), joined in the criticism.
“It’s truly disturbing that Members of Congress rushed to blame Israel for the hospital tragedy in Gaza,” Fetterman said. “Who would take the word of a group that just massacred innocent Israeli civilians over our key ally?”
To rewind: Omar and Tlaib, who are outspoken about supporting the cause of the Palestinian people, initially blamed the IDF for the hospital explosion.
Omar, who fled civil war in Somalia as a child before immigrating to the United States, on Tuesday accused the IDF of “the gravest of war crimes.”
Omar later said the incident was “a reminder that information is often unreliable and disputed in the fog of war” and called for an independent investigation into the blast.
“Israel just bombed the Baptist Hospital killing 500 Palestinians (doctors, children, patients) just like that,” Tlaib said Tuesday.
Tlaib’s parents are Palestinian immigrants, and she’s the only Palestinian-American in Congress. She’s long criticized Israel as an “apartheid government” that uses U.S. funding to help oppress Palestinians.
On their respective social media accounts, Tlaib and Omar had reminded their followers that the IDF has misled the public in the past.
While Omar clarified her post, Tlaib appeared to double down on the now-debunked assertion that Israel was behind the blast. Speaking to protesters outside the Capitol Wednesday afternoon, Tlaib said it was difficult “to continue to watch people say it’s OK to bomb a hospital with children.”
— Max Cohen
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THE MONEY GAME
Are you bored of the speaker race? Do you want to have lunch with House Minority Whip Katherine Clark? OK, well, great. For anywhere from $500 to $5,000, you can dine with the Massachusetts Democrat at the Sazerac House today.
Do you want to wind down with a glass of wine after the race? Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) has a California wine reception at 5 p.m. — also running between $500 and $5,000.
Does wine give you a headache? Prefer a margarita? You’re in luck. You can have Margaritas with Mad — that’s Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) — for the same price at Paraiso tonight.
Are you a Republican? Do you want to hear from Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), who voted both for and then against Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for speaker? The one-time candidate for Ways and Means Committee chair has a dinner tonight featuring Reps. Mike Carey (R-Ohio), Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa) and Blake Moore (R-Utah).
How about attending an event with Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who voted down the line against Jordan? Womack has a dinner tonight, as well.
— Jake Sherman
In less than a month, voters in Rhode Island’s 1st District will head to the ballot box to tap a replacement for former Democratic Rep. David Cicilline, who retired this summer. The district is heavily Democratic and Gabe Amo won the party’s primary. Amo will be the next congressman, but he’s taking no chances.
Amo is up on the air with a spot in Providence, saying he will stand up to Republicans.
— Jake Sherman
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10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
Noon: House will open for the day.
8 p.m.: Biden will give an address to discuss the U.S. response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel and Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.
“Bob Menendez’s Wife Pleads Not Guilty in New Foreign Agent Case,” by David Voreacos
“Why the GOP Can’t Unite,” by Jonathan Martin
Editorial photos provided by Getwty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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