Skip to content
Sign up to receive our free weekday morning edition, and you'll never miss a scoop.

Inside House Republicans’ big day

Today is a huge day for House Republicans. They’ll meet at 10 a.m. to try to nominate their candidate for speaker. As you know by now, the choices are House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan of Ohio.

We’ll note this is as discombobulated and disorganized as the House GOP conference has been for more than two decades. They’re leaderless, angry and upset over how they got here and worried about what’s next. There’s backstabbing, bad blood and mistrust. Evidence: After preaching unity for the last week, Jordan declined to say openly whether he’ll back Scalise if the Louisiana Republican wins the nomination for speaker. And that may cost him some votes.

OK, let’s go over what might happen today.

1) The Scalise-Jordan proxy vote. House Republicans will vote on a proposal being pushed by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) — and, to a lesser extent, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) — to raise the threshold to bring a Republican candidate for speaker to the House floor for a roll-call vote. In past leadership elections, a speaker candidate needed a simple majority to advance. Roy wants to up the threshold to 217 to ensure the GOP’s nominee wins on the floor.

Scalise has been working to defeat the proposal. But Roy’s proposed rule change has more than 100 supporters — Jordan is one of them — so even Scalise’s closest allies understand he’s likely to lose.

Scalise can try to head off this by offering a vote to table or amend the proposal. But Scalise is in a box here because it’s popular inside the conference.

2) Scalise wins. Scalise’s orbit has been telling House Republicans that he has this race locked up already and has garnered the support of the majority of the conference. Maybe so, maybe not. Yet winning today — or tomorrow, or Friday — would be the culmination of the 58-year-old Scalise’s career. Whether his aides and allies admit it, Scalise has always seemed to fancy sitting in the speaker’s chair.

Will he take the conference in a decidedly different direction from Kevin McCarthy? It’s too soon to tell. Throughout this contest, Scalise has kept his cards close to the vest, declining to offer detailed plans on how he would fund the government or tackle the bevy of challenges Republicans face.

But we can say this: Scalise has watched three GOP speakers operate from his perch at the leadership table. He has a loyal staff, a K Street cabinet stocked with high-powered lobbyists and a good fundraising operation. All the attributes of a speaker, but not the gavel.

3) Jordan wins. Jordan is ahead in the public endorsement count, although that’s not the full story. Jordan would represent a dramatic change atop the House GOP. In recent days, Scalise allies have warned us repeatedly that Jordan is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They say Jordan hasn’t changed a bit since his bomb-throwing days when he pushed John Boehner out of the speakership and then blocked McCarthy from succeeding him.

But Jordan could win. And if he does, you’ll see the House GOP taken in a completely different direction. Jordan, 59, says what he means — always. He lays out his position — no matter how hardline it is — and waits for colleagues to come his way. So if Jordan is elected, you should expect legislative showdowns — lots of them.

4) The long slog. Today could be a long day. How long depends on whether the Roy proposal passes.

First, the process of taking up the Roy proposal could take a while. If it’s adopted, this will drive what happens afterward.

Then you get into the actual election between the Scalise and Jordan. This is a majority vote, with the winner moving forward. If the Roy proposal isn’t adopted, the GOP candidate goes to the floor to see if he can get enough votes to become speaker. This is likely to happen on Thursday.

However — and this is key — if the Roy proposal is adopted, the speaker candidate will then be required to lock up 217 votes (out of a possible 221 Republicans) before advancing to the floor. This is being referred to as a “validation” vote.

The first round is by secret ballot. If 217 isn’t reached then, the conference moves into questioning the candidate, and then another secret ballot is held. If he still doesn’t have 217, there’s more questioning, followed by an open roll-call vote. This means every Republican has to declare how they’ll vote. If the speaker nominee is still not at 217, there’s more questioning and then yet another roll-call vote. If the speaker nominee doesn’t have at least 185 votes at this point, the process starts all over again.

According to the Roy proposal, members can nominate other candidates after the third round of voting. So if Scalise or Jordan don’t nail down 217 votes by then, some lawmakers may get itchy and nominate someone new. Think Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry or Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).

5) Will it really matter? Donald Trump is likely to be the GOP presidential nominee barring some dramatic reversal in the polls or in the courts. Every congressional race in 2024 will be about Trump vs. Joe Biden. There won’t be any escaping it. Who the speaker is and how Congress handles huge issues of war and peace, government funding and shutdowns, are important, of course. But everything will be viewed through the filter of Biden vs. Trump, a rematch of the never-ending 2020 election.

— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

Presented by AARP

AARP knows older voters. 

We’ve made it our business to know what matters to people 50 and over—like we know that protecting Social Security and supporting family caregivers are among their top priorities. Learn more from our polling in Pennsylvania.

Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.