No Good Answers For What Comes Next In The GOP House

INSIDE: Jim Jordan ... Steve Scalise ... Matt Gaetz
US Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) speaks to members of the media outside the office of US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2023. McCarthy was fighting for... US Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) speaks to members of the media outside the office of US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 3, 2023. McCarthy was fighting for his political life ahead of a vote expected Tuesday on whether to remove him as House speaker, forced by far-right critics angered by his work with Democrats. McCarthy sparked fury among the ultra-conservative wing of the party when he passed a bipartisan stopgap funding measure backed by the White House to avert a government shutdown on September 30, 2023. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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More Questions Than Answers

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I have a grasp on what is happening in the House. I don’t think anyone really does.

A few things I do know:

  • Normal partisan-focused analysis falls short. This isn’t a Dems v. GOP issue or vice versa.
  • The more confident the prediction or assertion about what lays ahead, the more skeptical you should be.
  • No clever finagling, needle-threading, or pretending is going to get around the deeply undemocratic, minority flex many House GOPers are determined to perform. If consensus remains the enemy, then we face a very uncertain road.

Let’s run through the big questions and the main unknowns as a way of framing up the news.

Dead In The Water?

It’s taking some serious research and analysis to sort out what exactly the House can do, if anything, without a speaker in place. Uncharted territory in a big way:

Matt Glassman: How much power does Speaker pro tempore McHenry have?

WaPo: The House can’t function without a speaker

News From The States: How does a ‘frozen’ U.S. House function without a speaker? Everyone’s got an opinion.

What Happens Next?

The first order of business – and in fact the only order of business it seems like the House even can take up (see above) – is electing a new speaker.

How’s that looking? Not good!

Increasing signs suggest that next Wednesday’s planned vote on a new speaker is more aspirational than certain.

To say there’s no consensus candidate doesn’t come close to capturing the current dynamic.

Will The House GOP Handcuff The Next Speaker, Too?

This remains probably the biggest unknown and most crucial question of all.

As we discussed in yesterday’s Morning Memo, if the hair-trigger motion to vacate under the current rules is kept in place, then no speaker will have the authority to lead. It would be a phantom majority. Kevin McCarthy stumbled through nine months of that before it all collapsed.

No one wants the job under those circumstances, nor should they.

What’s This Mean For Democracy?

This isn’t normal. Not normal at all. Let me repeat …

“If you want to know what it looks like when democracy is in trouble, this is what it looks like,” said Daniel Ziblatt, professor of government at Harvard University, told the WaPo. “It should set off alarm bells that something is not right.”

This isn’t a violent assault on the rule of law. This is a different category of anti-democratic impulses, the same minority extortion tactics that we’ve seen from Republicans on the Hill since at least 2010.

Super damaging. No end in sight. It may seem like they’re mostly hurting themselves. They’re not.

What’s This Mean For Budget Talks And A Shutdown?

By the time a speaker vote is held next Wednesday – a big if (see above)– only 5 weeks and 2 days will remain until the current CR expires and the government shuts down.

That leaves a very narrow window for negotiating a long-term deal or even extending things with another CR, which seems almost fanciful to contemplate since the last CR cost the speaker of the House his job.

What about Ukraine aid? Good question!

It’s a looming train wreck, even if a new speaker is in place next week.

It’s Jim Jordan v. Steve Scalise … For Now

What a matchup.

Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) each announced Wednesday their runs for speaker of the House.

One the on hand, the odious chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a key figure in securing the speakership for Kevin McCarthy in the first place.

On the other, the majority leader who famously called himself “David Duke without the baggage” and had been through the meat-grinder of an assassination attempt and now cancer.

I’m less interested in which of them can win. The more salient question is can either of them – or anyone else – secure the kind of support that allows the motion to vacate to be deweaponized? That locks in a sustainable working majority? That has the authority to negotiate freely with the Senate and White House?

As I mentioned yesterday, things could get worse with McCarthy gone. Mark this matchup as Exhibit A for that proposition.

Quote Of The Day

Via Emine Yücel, reporting from the Hill:

Replacing one dick with a different kind of dick isn’t gonna change anything.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA), on the race to succeed Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House

Didn’t Expect The Senate To Get Involved Like This

‘Pool Noodles’

Bannon Back In The Spotlight

NYT: From a Capitol Hill Basement, Bannon Stokes the Republican Party Meltdown

A Good Thread

Reader Mailbag

In response to yesterday’s Morning Memo, a reader wrote in wondering if House Democrats cooperating with some reasonable Republicans might not effectively sideline the most radical GOPers in the House and arrest this slide into ever great chaos. A portion of their email:

This does involve more rational members of the GOP having the courage to stand up to the threat of primarying, and some of them will lose.  

I understand that this is certainly risky, and may even be impossible.  But would it be worth trying?  I fear that standing back and applauding their chaos just makes the chaos more permanent.

My email response:

I get the impulse. I really do. But it’s all illusory, I’m afraid. While there’s a core radical group that drives a lot of the House GOP madness, their numbers grow dramatically when faced with the prospect of cooperating with the Democrats whom they have vilified and demonized to the point of caricature. So any cooperation or prospect thereof collapses pretty quickly. 

But even if you don’t buy that, what you describe has already happened: Any Republicans who cooperated with Dems or weren’t totally MAGA lost primaries or didn’t run again over the course of many cycles. This is what’s left. So it’s already played out as you imagined and this is where you end up.   

I love hearing from you. Keep the feedback coming.

Trump Is Still Buffaloing Judges

A good thread on how Trump used his presence at his civil trial in NY to delay his deposition in his lawsuit against Michael Cohen, but then left the NY trial early:

Fani Willis Is Offering Plea Deals In Georgia RICO Case

At least some lower-level defendants in the Georgia RICO case are getting plea offers – or having their interest level in pleading out gauged – by Atlanta DA Fani Willis, the AJC reports.

Among those offered a deal was Mike Romans, the director of Election Day ops for the Trump 2020 campaign, but he rejected it, the newspaper reported.

Georgia GOP Wracking Up Legal Bills

AJC: “In all, the Georgia GOP has spent more than $1 million on legal fees since the beginning of last year, most of it for the Trump election interference case.”

Morning Memo Will Be Back Tuesday

I’ll be out Friday, but Morning Memo will be back after the holiday weekend. See you then!

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