The House Speaker Fiasco Keeps on Going

Rep. Jim Jordan holds a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on October 20, 2023, in Washington. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Happy Friday! Thanks to everyone who made it out to our Dispatch D.C. event last night.

Up to Speed

  • Shortly after returning from Israel, President Joe Biden on Thursday delivered a prime-time address in the Oval Office linking the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel and calling for Congress to approve additional funding for both. “Hamas and Putin represent different threats. But they share this in common: They both want to completely annihilate a neighboring democracy,” Biden said. “We cannot and will not let terrorists like Hamas and tyrants like Putin win.”
  • Mark Robinson, the controversial North Carolina lieutenant governor seeking his state’s top job in 2024, has a new opponent in the Republican primary: lawyer and wealthy businessman Bill Graham. As The Dispatch first reported earlier this week, Graham had been encouraged to run for governor by GOP insiders inside and outside of North Carolina because some in the party worry Robinson will lose in the general election. The Tarheel State is a competitive battleground that for several years has been simultaneously voting Democrat for governor and Republican for president.  
  • California Sen. Laphonza Butler told the New York Times Thursday that she will not run next year for the seat she was appointed to this month, calling service in the Senate “not the greatest use of my voice” for California. Butler was appointed to the seat by Gov. Gavin Newsom after the death of Dianne Feinstein, who had held it for more than 30 years. Butler’s departure from the race leaves a three-way contest between Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee. 
  • Sidney Powell, one of the attorneys who made the public case on behalf of Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen or fraudulent, has pleaded guilty in Fulton County, Georgia, to charges she conspired with other Trump supporters—and Trump himself—to disrupt the 2020 election proceedings in the state. Powell was set to begin her trial next week, and as part of her deal with prosecutors will “serve six years of probation, will be fined $6,000, and will have to write an apology letter to Georgia and its residents. … She also agreed to testify truthfully against her co-defendants at future trials,” the Associated Press reported.

The House Mess Gets Messier

And we thought the chaos immediately after Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s ouster as House speaker was bad. Two weeks on, Republicans are no closer to installing his replacement, conference morale is cratering, leadership is rudderless, and it’s plainer than ever that there’s just no plan.

Speaker-designate Jim Jordan thought he had a plan. A few of them, in fact. Plan A was to browbeat and/or sweet-talk enough of the holdouts into line for the Ohio Republican to win on Tuesday’s first ballot, or failing that on Wednesday’s second. Plan B was revealed Thursday morning: Jordan told his colleagues he would push to empower the acting speaker pro tem, Rep. Patrick McHenry, to serve as a functional speaker for a few months and shepherd Congress through its current legislative crunch, then try to vote again.

On paper, this was a conciliatory, everybody-wins proposal: McHenry, a McCarthy ally, would have been a broadly acceptable leader to take the wheel on a few pieces of crucial legislation, including votes on aid to Israel and Ukraine, and averting yet another looming government shutdown.

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