Happy Wednesday! Anybody out there want to be House speaker? Now’s the time to pipe up.
Up to Speed
- President Joe Biden arrived Wednesday for a diplomatic mission to Israel as violence continues in the wake of the Hamas terror attacks on southern Israel last week. A deadly explosion at a hospital in Gaza City—which Palestinian authorities blamed on an Israeli strike, but Israeli officials said was the result of a failed rocket launch from Gaza by an extremist group—scrambled Biden’s trip before it even began. A planned summit with leaders from Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority was scrapped in the wake of the blast. Biden still held face-to-face meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.
- In the first floor vote for House speaker since the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio failed to secure the 217 necessary votes on the first ballot Tuesday afternoon after 20 Republicans cast ballots for some other members of their party. Rather than call a second vote immediately, Jordan postponed the second ballot until Wednesday at 11 a.m. The House will continue to vote until Jordan withdraws his name or someone is elected speaker.
- The presence of independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the ballot could tip a competitive contest between former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden in the incumbent’s favor, a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds. In a two-way hypothetical contest between the two frontrunners, Biden leads Trump nationally 49 percent to 46 percent. But with RFK Jr. included, Biden’s lead grows by four points: Biden 44 percent, Trump 37 percent, Kennedy 16 percent.
- Sen. Tim Scott’s Trust in the Mission super PAC is dialing down its TV presence three months after committing $40 million for ad buys through the fall. “We aren’t going to waste our money when the electorate isn’t focused or ready for a Trump alternative,” super PAC co-chair Rob Collins wrote in a memo to donors. “This electorate is locked up and money spent on mass media isn’t going to change minds until we get a lot closer to voting.” The South Carolina Republican is trailing significantly in most polls.
- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Never Back Down super PAC has launched a new ad blitz against former South Carolina governor and ambassador Nikki Haley as she continues to gain ground on DeSantis in several key early states. Quoting a weekend CNN interview from Haley—“America’s always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists”—the ads suggest Haley would welcome refugees from Gaza into the United States, while DeSantis would not. (Haley was not saying anything to that effect in her CNN appearance.)
- Former newscaster and failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake landed a key GOP endorsement this week in her bid to unseat independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the latest sign that the party establishment has despaired of anyone else beating the ultra-MAGA election truther in the Republican primary. “Kari Lake will shine brightly for Arizona,” Senate Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso of Wyoming said in a statement. “She is a generational communicator who is giving voice to Arizona citizens.”
- Arizona Rep. Debbie Lesko on Tuesday unexpectedly announced she would not seek reelection, opening a seat in the Republican-leaning 8th district in the northern Phoenix suburbs. Two Republicans who lost statewide races in last year’s midterms immediately signaled their interest in the seat: Abe Hamadeh, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general, announced within hours he would run, while Blake Masters, who failed to defeat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, posted a “thank you for your service” message to Lesko on social media.
Jordan Falls Short on First Speaker Vote
Rep. Jim Jordan isn’t there yet. The Ohio Republican seemed to be building momentum Monday, as lawmaker after lawmaker who’d signaled they’d oppose him as speaker announced he’d won them over. But when the floor vote came Tuesday, Jordan ran aground on the brutal math of the current Congress: In a razor-thin majority, even a few holdouts are too many. In the end, 20 Republicans voted for someone other than Jordan—four times the total needed to sink him.
Some who opposed Jordan on the first ballot were doing so more as a protest against the burn-it-all-down philosophy that led to the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month. Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a McCarthy friend and ally going back to their days in the California State Assembly, said he would vote for Jordan next time after casting his first vote for the deposed speaker.
“Some people feel pretty strongly about it,” LaMalfa told reporters Wednesday. “My strong feelings are for supporting Kevin and showing them that support after what I think is just the heinous thing that happened to him.”