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A salvo of rockets is fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza as an Israeli missile launched from the Iron Dome system

Israel at war

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 doall 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

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