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McHenry + Emmer

Day 20 without a speaker

It’s Day 20 without a House speaker.

It’s hard to fully grasp the scale of this disaster for House Republicans and the Congress as a whole. But one thing is clear — the American public is fed up with the standoff.

Even if GOP lawmakers are able to agree among themselves on a speaker soon — far from guaranteed based on what’s happened during the last several weeks — they’ve now spent the better part of a month on this internecine battle. They’ll have gained nothing while their three most high-profile members — former speaker Kevin McCarthy, Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan — have either been ousted or rejected by their colleagues.

And whoever finally gets the speaker’s gavel will preside over a House Republican Conference riven by anger and bitterness. We’re not sure what, if anything, House Republicans can accomplish during the remainder of this Congress.

A reminder — government funding runs out on Nov. 17, while President Joe Biden is seeking $105 billion for wars in Ukraine and Israel, plus aid to Taiwan and new border-security money. The House can’t do anything about any of this until it gets a speaker or a speaker pro tem is elected.

Let’s be clear: We’re doubtful that any of the nine Republicans running can garner 217 votes on the floor.

But we are sure of this — the House will have to act this week. Enough Republicans plus 212 Democrats are out of patience. They want the House back in business ASAP, however it’s done.

Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) told us on Friday that he’s prepared to offer his resolution to elect Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry to the post if Republicans can’t unite behind a speaker. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) has a similar proposal. That would allow the House to take action on Israel and the other critical issues it faces.

But Kelly and Joyce would need Democratic votes to pass this. So far, Democrats have waited out the internal GOP crisis, saying they’re prepared to act in a bipartisan manner when Republicans are ready. That decision point is rapidly approaching.

The other possibility is reinstalling McCarthy as speaker. We don’t see this as terribly likely. McCarthy’s opposition has probably swelled beyond the original eight conservative hardliners who voted to oust him, despite some very vocal GOP support. And he would want the motion to vacate changed, which would require Democratic help.

The reality is that GOP leaders are going to need Democratic support to avoid a shutdown, pass a new farm bill, reauthorize the FAA or do anything at this point.

So basically, House Republicans are at their last gasp this week. Either they unite behind a speaker or a number of their members will go to the floor and seek Democratic backing to break the stalemate.

State of the race. The top contender — the latest of the trio of elected GOP leaders to mount a bid for speaker — is House Majority Whip Tom Emmer.

We’ll say the same thing about Emmer that we said about House Majority Leader Steve Scalise — he has a very solid whip operation, which gives the Minnesota Republican massive institutional advantages over his rivals. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), a newbie to leadership with a good read on the conference, is running Emmer’s race for speaker.

But the fact that nine lawmakers are running signals that Republicans aren’t content with Emmer, and they’re certainly not afraid of him.

For the moment, Emmer is the frontrunner. He’s nearly certain to advance to the second round of voting inside the GOP Conference. His team believes he’ll eventually advance from the conference as the party’s nominee, probably winning in the third or fourth round of voting.

But as we saw with Scalise, strong whip operations don’t mean everything. Former President Donald Trump’s orbit is vehemently opposed to Emmer’s candidacy. Emmer’s team is hoping Trump himself stays neutral publicly, but that seems unlikely. Trump-linked sources are already circulating oppo research on Emmer’s DUI and voting history — including his vote to have the federal government recognize same-sex marriage. Emmer’s team says he’s been loyal to Trump. The Minnesotan backed Trump in 2016 and 2020, while Trump keynoted numerous events for Emmer as NRCC chair.

McCarthy, who previously endorsed Jordan for speaker, has now endorsed Emmer. But remember that these races are intensely personal affairs. Emmer won a very competitive race for whip in January, making enemies with allies to Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) in the process.

The lawmakers making calls for Emmer include Reschenthaler, Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter, Kansas Rep. Jake LaTurner and Minnesota Rep. Brad Finstad.

More on the other candidates in a moment.

The rules: Republicans will hold a candidate forum today at 6:30 p.m. Then they will begin voting tomorrow.

The election process is relatively straightforward. The lowest vote-getter is booted each round until there’s only one candidate left.

— 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.