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Good Monday morning.
House Republicans hope to elect a speaker this week. We conducted in-depth interviews on Friday with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio on all the key topics facing the next speaker. We have that for you below.
Here’s the week’s timeline: House Republicans will return tonight and hold a conference meeting. There’ll be a candidate forum for speaker on Tuesday featuring Jordan and Scalise. And as of now, the internal GOP election for speaker will be held Wednesday. Many House Republicans want to ensure no candidate goes to the floor for a roll-call vote unless he has the support of 218 Republicans.
House Democrats will return Tuesday night for an organizational meeting, and they’ll caucus Wednesday morning. Democrats, of course, will nominate House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries for speaker.
As noted above, the earliest a floor vote for speaker can take place is Wednesday. However, we think Thursday or later is more likely for any floor action.
If neither Jordan nor Scalise — or any Republican — can round up enough support to get 218 votes (really 217) and the House goes into next week without a speaker, then that raises a whole new set of questions. Would the House formally approve Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) as speaker pro tem — the post he only nominally holds now — for 30 or 60 days in order to get moving on critical issues? Would a “caretaker speaker” be tapped? Do Republicans have to figure out their internal rules fights first? Some lawmakers want to reelect Kevin McCarthy. That’s not happening, though.
But first, Israel. The United States’ strongest ally in the Middle East is now locked in a bloody war with Hamas. At least 700 Israelis are dead. Another roughly 150 or more Israelis have been kidnapped and taken to Gaza by Hamas terrorists.
President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held several phone calls over the weekend, and a U.S. carrier strike group is moving toward the Israeli coast.
Congress is a secondary player here — for now. Senate and House leaders have been briefed on the situation, as has the House Intelligence Committee. No, there isn’t a speaker. But McCarthy’s former aides — those who still work for the office of the speaker — have been briefed.
It’s not entirely clear at this point how this multi-front war in Israel will change the tempo and tenor of politics on Capitol Hill. Remember: The Senate is out of session until next week. But House Republicans may feel pressure to choose a speaker more quickly.
We wanted to review some dynamics that could come into play over the next few days.
1) Without a House speaker, it’ll be tricky to pass anything in Congress. But senior GOP sources tell us if the House needs to act, it may do so regardless of the procedural consequences.
2) The number of American nationals killed or taken hostage by Hamas is still unconfirmed. Biden administration officials told senators on an unclassified call Sunday night that they believe at least four Americans were killed in the attacks, according to sources who were on the call.
3) Jeffries is working with the Biden administration to schedule an all-member briefing on Israel this week.
4) Top Senate Democrats are pushing to speed up the confirmation of Jack Lew, Biden’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel. And Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Ben Cardin is promising a legislative push “that will focus on providing Israel what it needs to defend itself,” the Maryland Democrat said in a statement.
On Lew. The White House only recently sent Lew’s paperwork to Capitol Hill, and the Foreign Relations Committee is still processing his nomination. Lew still needs to have his confirmation hearing, but we’re told the panel is looking to schedule it for the week the Senate returns from recess.
Lew will likely have overwhelming support in the committee and in the full Senate, but that doesn’t mean his nomination will move quickly. It would take a unanimous consent agreement to fast-track Lew’s confirmation.
We’re told that several Republicans want to hear more from Lew and the White House on their strategy for the war in Israel. Other Republicans want to use the Lew nomination to have a broader discussion about the administration’s posture toward Iran, which conservatives believe has been too conciliatory.
Senate Democrats also want to see senior State Department nominations confirmed, like the counterterrorism coordinator and other ambassadorships in the region that are being held up by GOP senators.
On legislation. Top Biden administration officials warned senators Sunday night that they should prepare their constituents for the likelihood of a long war in Israel and the Gaza Strip, indicating that American support — both tangible and political — will be necessary in the coming weeks and months.
Lawmakers expect that the Biden administration will soon brief them on what, if anything, will be needed in the near-term to assist Israel. This could include a supplemental security assistance package, as well as the replenishment of the Iron Dome missile-defense system.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who was briefed at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai while leading codel in China, said he’ll do “all I can to deliver everything Israel requires in this time of urgent need.”
Under discussion among some national-security hawks this weekend was a potential legislative package that lumps Israel aid in with a big Ukraine package that Congress is still trying to pass.
This idea is to force the GOP’s Ukraine skeptics into a bind. That group has been highlighting the need to support Israel by using some of the same arguments that pro-Ukraine Republicans are making about the importance of continuing to back Kyiv. This is incredibly risky from a political and practical point of view.
— Jake Sherman, Andrew Desiderio and John Bresnahan
Events update: We’re excited to announce our conversation with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) will now take place on Thursday, Nov. 9 at 9 a.m. ET. Punchbowl News managing editor Heather Caygle and Capito will discuss measures to address the opioid crisis. RSVP now!
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THE CANDIDATES FOR SPEAKER
The Punchbowl News interview: Jim Jordan
We sat down with House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise Friday — before the major Hamas incursion into Israel.
Jordan has the most public endorsements in this race, although he’s not near clinching the nomination. Jordan has also locked down the vast majority of the Ohio GOP delegation. Scalise is trailing behind him in locking down Louisianans.
Let’s get into the substance.
Quite notably, Jordan told us during a lengthy interview in his office he doesn’t want to go to the floor to vote for the speaker until 217 Republicans decide on who they support. Furthermore, Jordan wants a decision on how to handle the motion to vacate and the looming funding fight first. This is a tall task and we doubt either candidate will be able to lock it up before a speaker vote.
We reported Friday that Jordan wanted to change the motion-to-vacate rule — but only if he could do so with 217 GOP votes. Jordan and Scalise both said they don’t want to punish the eight lawmakers who voted against Kevin McCarthy — more about that in the Midday edition.
The basics of the race. In Jordan’s view, this election is about who can lead the conference, unite Republicans and communicate to “the country what we’re doing and why it’s important to them, to their family, to their community, their business.”
Jordan says he “never planned to do this” — meaning run for speaker — which is what Republicans like to hear. Republicans tend to be attracted to candidates who appear as if they’ve been dragged kicking and screaming to the speakership.
Can Jordan work with Democrats? Being a bomb thrower is one thing — and Jordan definitely has that reputation. But can he operate in a city dominated by a Democratic Senate and President Joe Biden?
“I voted for a debt-ceiling increase back when we got the Senate to do a budget. When you get some incremental win, I can do it. I voted against a lot of debt ceilings. I voted for this one because I thought it was a structure where we were actually reducing spending a little bit.
Jordan was referring to the Fiscal Responsibility Act deal cut in May between Biden and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a one-time Jordan target turned ally. Support from McCarthy’s backers is key for Jordan to win this showdown with Scalise.
Jordan said he has a good relationship with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. They aren’t close but have spoken, he said — for what that’s worth. Jordan is working with some progressives — including Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) — on a rewrite of FISA.
Government funding. Jordan has a very clear view on government funding. The Ohio Republican said he wants to use the threat of the 1% across-the-board spending cut to get the Biden administration to negotiate on border security. And Jordan has one demand that seems non-negotiable:
“No money can be used to process or release into the country any new migrants. You got 11,000 [migrants] a day coming across the border. … Time out.”
And when Jordan says that, he means it. Jordan has no flexibility on issues like this.
Ukraine. It’s safe to say that the Biden administration is in big trouble when it comes to getting more money for Ukraine. Jordan and Scalise are both incredibly skeptical of sending additional military or economic aid to Kyiv, which would be a stunning development in the 19-month-old war.
“I think I have the most common-sense position — where the American people are. No one can tell us what the objective is. And the person who’s supposed to make that case is the commander in chief, and he hasn’t done it. [Biden] can’t tell us what the goal is. Is it to get Russia out… of the Donbas region? Is it to get them out of Crimea, which they’ve held for nine years, is it? What’s the goal? …
“[I]f you don’t know the objective, and yet you’re sending money, how do you measure what the money is being used for and how effective it is? … I stopped voting for Ukraine measures when they wouldn’t tell me what we’re doing, what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Fundraising. Jordan told us that he is prepared to take on the heavy lift of raising tens of millions of dollars for House Republicans in 2024. “Every quarter, leadership is asking me to sign surrogate copy for grassroots mailing. Steve [Scalise] has asked me every quarter and I do it every quarter,” Jordan said.
— Jake Sherman and Mica Soellner
THE CANDIDATES FOR SPEAKER
The Punchbowl News interview: Steve Scalise
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, currently No. 2 in GOP leadership, is working hard to lock up the support he needs for the speakership. We spoke to him from New Orleans Friday.
As we’ve mentioned before, Scalise has some strong institutional advantages over Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Scalise has a whip operation in place already and has won multiple leadership races. And he’s much more palatable to moderates than Jordan, who has made a career as a hardline conservative. We’ve heard from several moderate Republicans that they’d rather have Scalise in the speakership than Jordan because the Louisiana Republican is much easier to bring to swing districts.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that neither of them will get the 217 votes they need to be speaker.
OK, let’s jump into Scalise’s take on key policies.
Funding. Scalise said Republicans need to “get back on track” and focus on fighting for new border-security policies.
“On day one, as Speaker Scalise, I’m going to challenge President Biden to sit down and start talking about what we can do to secure the border now, and what we need to do to address the spending problem that’s driving inflation before the clock runs out, because that clock is ticking.”
We asked Scalise if there’s a specific policy he wanted to push for dealing with the border. Scalise said he’s been “working with … members, my colleagues” on what he would do. But he called this a “‘Day One’ issue as speaker.”
Ukraine. Scalise drew a somewhat firm line against continuing to fund Ukraine’s efforts to free itself of Russian occupation, which is fast becoming the default position for many members of the House GOP. Scalise said President Joe Biden hasn’t made a case to fund the war and said he has other priorities.
“The president has not made a case for additional funding. He hasn’t done it to Congress.
“We need to secure our border, that has to be the number one top priority issue. We need to get spending under control, secure our border, get our economy back on track. Those are the ‘Day One’ issues that I’m going to be focusing on and calling on the president to sit down and meet with on my first day as speaker.”
The motion to vacate. Scalise said the push to change the motion to vacate “comes up on almost every call” he has with members of the House Republican Conference. But Scalise didn’t state a personal preference besides wanting to come to a decision internally with Republicans:
“There are a lot of members that want to address it from every swath of our conference, a lot that are interested in looking at this. So I mean, this is going to be a longer conversation.”
— Jake Sherman
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The Sandy Hook Promise Council has hired Akin Gump and former Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) aide Casey Higgins to lobby on “[a]dvocacy for bipartisan federal legislation to prevent gun and school violence.”
De Beers, the diamond giant, has hired Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to build support for the “De Beers G7 diamond protocol solution, [and] build De Beers brand with Washington policymakers.”
— Jake Sherman
News: Democrat Kirsten Engel raised over $424,000 in the third quarter and has nearly $650,000 on hand. Engel is running for the Democratic nomination in Arizona’s 6th District and is seeking to challenge vulnerable GOP Rep. Juan Ciscomani (Ariz.). Engel lost narrowly to Ciscomani in 2022.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who is up for reelection in 2024, has a new ad running in Tallahassee, Ft. Meyers and Naples, criticizing Democrats for tying Ukraine aid to disaster-relief money. Of course, Congress eventually decoupled the two.
— Max Cohen and Jake Sherman
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10 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
11 a.m.: Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy will hold a press availability to talk about Israel.
“Israel and Hamas Battle Around Gaza as Netanyahu Warns of ‘Long and Difficult War,’” by Isabel Kershner in Jerusalem and Patrick Kingsley in Beersheva, Israel
“Hamas Attack Raises Questions Over an Israeli Intelligence Failure,” by Julian E. Barnes, David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt
“After Hamas Attack, U.S. to Send Weapons and Warships to Support Israel,” by Eric Schmitt in Sea Island, Ga., and Mike Shear in D.C.
“Oil Surges as Hamas Attack on Israel Fans Middle East Tensions,” by Serene Cheong and Elizabeth Low
“Airlines Suspend Flights After Israel Declares State of War,” by Will Davies and Siddharth Vikram Philip
“Iran Helped Plot Attack on Israel Over Several Weeks,” by Summer Said, Benoit Faucon and Stephen Kalin in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
“Wall Street Isn’t Sure It Can Handle All of Washington’s Bonds,” by Eric Wallerstein
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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