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Legislative Affairs

January 6, 2023

House Still Without a Speaker

Republicans Refuse to Back McCarthy

For the first time in over 100 years, Congress has so-far been unable to elect a Speaker of the House, conducting 12 rounds of votes through to today. AS OF 2PM TODAY, on the 12th roll call vote for speaker, current Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) finally saw some movement in his direction, with 14 Members switching to support him for Speaker. It is still short of the votes needed but significant movement in his direction. We expect McCarthy to continue negotiating with hold outs and we expect additional roll call votes to follow today building on the momentum of the last vote and until he reaches the necessary votes. Prior to today, there was a block of 20 Members-elect from the right wing of the Republican Party whom even after securing numerous concessions on House Rules remained opposed to Kevin McCarthy becoming Speaker.

Until a House Speaker can be decided, there is literally no functioning House of Representatives. Practical impacts include the fact that new and incumbent Members of Congress are unable to be officially sworn-in and the House is operating without specified rules, committee assignments, or even an ability to vote on anything besides adjournment. Legislatively, this week’s events have delayed any movement on advancing a long planned Republican Majority agenda that includes launching multiple investigations and oversight of the Biden Administration, China, federal spending and large corporations, as well as planned policy action on immigration, crime, energy and more. For now, all that is on hold. If and when McCarthy receives the last necessary votes from Members of his Conference, it will be key to understand the nature and scope of the concessions that have been made and to whom and what that portends for the agenda ahead in the House for the next two years. More to come on that.

Here’s what else you may have missed this week:

President Biden and Senator McConnell head to Kentucky. On Wednesday, in stark contrast to the chaos occurring in the House, President Biden visited the home state of Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell where they appeared together to tout a bridge project funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law. During the joint event, President Biden praised the Senate Republican leader, saying “Mitch, it wasn’t easy to get this done. It wouldn’t have happened without your hand. I believe it sends an important message to the entire country. We can work together. We can get things done. We can move the nation forward.” We can expect to see ongoing efforts for the Biden Administration to work in a bipartisan fashion with the Senate and a focus on implementation of laws already passed in the prior Congress given limited expectations about the ability to move new initiatives through a divided Congress.

Swearing-in ceremonies welcomed 7 new faces to the U.S. Senate. Monday was much less eventful in the Senate Chambers as Vice President Kamala Harris conducted swearing-in ceremonies for those newly elected or reelected. Those 7 new Senators are comprised of 6 Republicans who won out in seats previously occupied by a Republican, and 1 Democrat who flipped a seat in Pennsylvania, Sen. John Fetterman (who did in fact wear a suit and not a hoodie on his first day).

Elsewhere in the Senate, the 2024 election cycle is already underway. Long-time Democrat Debbie Stabenow announced that she will not seek reelection in 2024, a move that caught Washington by surprise and marks the ending of a career as the first woman elected Senator in Michigan back in 2001. This is the first major retirement of the nascent election cycle and has already prompted speculation about replacement candidates that include Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Debbie Dingell, as well as recently elected Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Republicans will of course have their own shot at the seat which will also undoubtedly prove decisive in the 2024 presidential race like it has the past two cycles.

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