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JANUARY 6-7,  2023

McCARTHY AS SPEAKER:  Now that he has the job, he has something to say. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy officially opened the 118th Congress early Saturday morning, holding the speaker’s gavel and conducting a chamber-wide swearing-in ceremony for new members.

His speakership followed a dramatic week of him slowly winning over 20 Republicans who initially did not support his speakership and defected their votes to other members.

After his victory in the 15th and final vote, McCarthy lauded: "I hope one thing is clear after this week: I will never give up. I will never give up for you, the American people. And I will never give up on keeping our Commitment to America."

"Our nation is worth fighting for," he added in his opening remarks.

Upon accepting the gavel as Speaker of the House, McCarthy thanked his colleagues for their support and shared his vision for uniting the legislative body.

"You know – my father always told me: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And now we need to finish strong for the American people," he said.

"As Speaker of the House, my ultimate responsibility is not to my party, my conference, or even our Congress. My responsibility – our responsibility – is to our country," the Californian continued. "Two months ago, you voted for a new direction for our country.

You embraced our Commitment to America. And now, we are going to keep our commitment to you."

His remarks also included a warning for Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY, who was selected by the chamber’s Democrats to be House Minority Leader.

"If the son of a fireman and grandchild of immigrants can rise to the highest position in the most important legislative body in the world and if my colleague Hakeem Jeffries with his life story can rise to lead his party then opportunity and democracy still thrive in America," McCarthy said.

He added: "To Leader Jeffries – there will be times we will agree and many times we will differ. I promise that our debates will be passionate, but never personal. And now the hard work begins. What we do here today, next week, next month, and next year will set the tone for everything that follows."

"Hakeem – I need to warn you: I also won 100 percent of my conference vote on this floor two years ago. So, good luck!" McCarthy jokingly said.

McCarthy also revealed some of his priorities for this session of Congress, which included: investigating China, securing the country’s border, and attempting to eliminate some of the federal debt, which is over $31 trillion.

"We will also address America’s long-term challenges: the debt and the Chinese Communist Party. Congress must speak with one voice on both of these issues," the House speaker said.

He vowed to build a "nation that is safe" and help form a "future that is built on freedom." McCarthy also wanted to construct a "government that is accountable where Americans get the answers they want, need, and deserve."

"Our system is built on checks and balances. It’s time for us to be the check and provide some balance to the President’s policies," McCarthy added. "There is nothing more important than making it possible for American families to live and enjoy the lives they deserve."

He also committed to "stop wasteful Washington spending to lower the price of groceries, gas, cars, and housing and stop the rising national debt."

"We pledge to cut the regulatory burden, lower energy costs for families, and create good-paying jobs for workers by unleashing reliable, abundant American-made energy," McCarthy added. "Our first bill will repeal funding for 87,000 new IRS agents. Because the government should be here to help you, not go after you."

The Republican also said he would reopen the U.S. Capitol Building, which remained behind additional security measures and was mostly inaccessible to the public following the riots on Jan. 6, 2021.

"My friends – this chamber is now fully open for all Americans," he said.

COMMENT:  Perfectly fine and gracious opening remarks.   The firing squads don't start operating until Monday.  Remember that there is still a segment in McCarthy's own party that opposes him.  He might well need help from moderate Democrats to pass some elements of the GOP program. 

As we've noted, we're already into the 2024 campaigns.  Expect major political combat. 

 

UPDATE AT 12:31 A.M. ET, JANUARY 6TH:  Kevin McCarthy has just been elected speaker of the House of Representatives.   

UPDATE AT 3:52 P.M. ET:  On the 13th ballot, McCarthy picked up one more vote.  He stands at 214.  He needs about 216 or 217 to win, depending on how many members vote.  He doesn't have them yet.  The House voted to adjourn until 10 p.m. tonight.  Obviously, the heat is on the holdouts.

UPDATE AT 1:58 P.M. ET:  The decision has been made to go immediately to a 13th ballot, in an effort to make Kevin McCarthy the speaker today.  There had been consideration given to adjourning until Monday, but McCarthy has real momentum and needs only four more votes.  They're going with the momentum.

 

The twelfth ballot for speaker is underway.  There have been some dramatic vote switches toward Kevin McCarthy.  Stand by.

The 12th ballot is complete.  McCarthy, who stood at 200 votes yesterday, now has 213.  The number for victory today (it varies because of absences) is 217. 

We don't know yet if they're going immediately to another roll call.  Stand by.

January 6-7, 2023       Permalink

 

 

 

 

 

JANUARY 5,  2023

BREAK OUT THE TEDDY BEARS:  The House has adjourned until noon tomorrow.  The body has had eleven roll call votes for speaker, and no speaker has emerged.  Many "closed door" meetings have been held, and are being held tonight.  The McCarthy people hope for an agreement this evening that the holdouts will accept, and that they will then vote for McCarthy on the 12th ballot tomorrow.  Why do I think this may drag into next week? 

The embarrassment for Republicans is great.  Although serious splits in the party are nothing new, not being able to choose a speaker, when you've just won a majority in the House, is no great ornament.  The 2024 presidential and congressional sweeps have essentially begun.  The Republican Party must present a solid, reasonably united front if it is to avoid last year's below-expected performance and help produce a Republican presidency.

Please note the contrast between the kiddie show in Washington and the smooth, triumphant inauguration, a few days ago, of Ron DeSantis for his second term as governor of Florida.  The DeSantis mood was one of victory and optimism.  His speech was presidential.  He had the style of a major leader.  There was a touch of the Reagan sunshine.  Morning in America again.  We have talent, a major talent, for 2024.

A word about Donald Trump.  He endorsed Kevin McCarthy for speaker, but his endorsement fell flat.  An ally put his name in nomination for the speaker post – the speaker doesn't have to be a member of the House – and he got one vote.  Polls show Mr. Trump weakening, and he is facing legal problems.  I try not to make predictions at Urgent Agenda, but I think it's clear that the former president is running into headwinds, and that other Republicans are no longer afraid to challenge him.  The nation is looking to the future.  I don't think Donald Trump wants to leave public life having failed to win his party's nomination for a new term.     

 

UPDATE AT 6:45 P.M. ET:  Well, I assume you've been following at least the results in the House speaker sweepstakes.  Just to fill you in, the boys have now gone through ten roll calls, with almost no change.  Kevin McCarthy is stuck at 200 votes, needing 218 to become speaker.  No one is budging.  We're told that talks are underway, with the hope of reaching some agreement that will bring the matter to a close tonight, with a McCarthy victory.  Of course, we've been told that before.  And the word "agreement" essentially means more concessions by McCarthy, to the point where he, as speaker, will be little more than a figurehead.   Under the rules, the roll calls must go on until adjournment, and adjournment itself may be difficult to achieve.  Your tax dollars at work.  

ANOTHER UPDATE:  The eighth vote for House speaker is complete, with no change.  McCarthy has not gained at all.  Everything is in limbo.  There is speculation all over the place as to where this goes, but still no news.  Republicans lack a true national leader who can break the necessary heads and bring the party together.  Trump has tried, but is being ignored.  The governors who may want to run for president won't touch this.  We need Jimmy Stewart.

 

UPDATE AT 2:35 P.M. ET:  A seventh vote has been held, with virtually no change from the results of the sixth.  The House is now on the eighth vote, and it's apparent that the GOP dissenters are digging in.  No one really has any solutions, but I can't see how Kevin McCarthy can go on without making any numerical progress.  But if he withdraws, then what?  Will the rebels accept someone else, or keep stonewalling?  There is now even talk of a deal with the Democrats.  It's gotten that far.

 

It's 11:50 here in the East, and we're awaiting the start of a new day in the House of Representatives, which is trying to elect a speaker.  There have been six ballots so far, with no decision.  The leading Republican candidate, Kevin McCarthy of California, is about 20 votes short of victory, but resistance to him among his GOP colleagues is strong, and may even be growing.  Universally loved he is not.

Congress can do nothing until a speaker is selected.  Thems are the rules.

It is being reported that McCarthy has been in negotiations overnight, and has made significant concessions to the holdouts.  The general feeling seems to be that if these concessions produce additional votes for him on the seventh ballot, he'd have the momentum to stay in.  If they don't, expect a growing number of Republicans, according to reports, to urge him to step aside.

Stand by.

January 5, 2023       Permalink

 

 

JANUARY 4,  2023

UPDATE AT 11:30 P.M. ET:  You all know that the House has now gone through six ballots without selecting a speaker. The House is in recess.  We are told that much negotiating is going on, and that pizzas are being delivered regularly to the negotiators.  Many stained shirts will likely result.  Whether a speaker will result is another story.  From Fox: 

House Republicans successfully but narrowly voted Wednesday night to adjourn until Thursday, after a break of several hours and indications that some progress might have been achieved in talks between Kevin McCarthy's supporters and 20 GOP opponents.

After a frenzied round of voting and clamoring by members, they voted 216-214 to adjourn.
Every Democrat voted against adjourning and they were joined by four Republicans: Andy Biggs of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Elijah Crane of Arizona and Matt Gaetz of Florida. But every other Republican voted to call it a day, and the House will return Thursday at noon to try again.

Just before the vote, McCarthy said some progress was made in negotiations with his opponents, and said it would be more productive to keep talking rather than hold more votes.

"I crawl before I walk, I walk before I run," McCarthy said after the House adjourned. "I felt as though we had a very good discussion."

McCarthy failed to get the 218 votes needed to win the speaker's gavel three times on Wednesday, and three times on Tuesday. He topped out at 203 votes on Tuesday, and on Wednesday mustered 201.

COMMENT:  No one is making absolute predictions, but I wouldn't be shocked if the dissidents came up with an actual name of someone to run directly against McCarthy. 

There will be a time when the cable news networks get tired of covering these failed votes.  No more free publicity for the members.  Maybe that will be the time a settlement is reached.

January 4, 2023       Permalink

 

A HOUSE DIVIDED – The House is scheduled to vote today for a fourth time to select a speaker.  No normal House business can be conducted before a speaker is chosen.  There has apparently been no progress in behind-the-scenes talks among the warring Republican factions.  However, one item has surfaced on a possible strategy that Kevin McCarthy might use.  From The Hill:

House GOP Speaker nominee Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) expressed optimism about winning the gavel Tuesday night as he emerged from meetings with allied members following three failed ballots, floating the possibility of winning the post with fewer than 218 votes. 

“You’re sitting at 202 votes, so you need technically just 11 more votes to win,” McCarthy said.

“Democrats have 212 votes. You get 213 votes, and the others don’t say another name, that’s how you can win. You can win with 218. You could win with 222. But if you want to look at how you have to go about doing it,” McCarthy said.

The House Speaker is elected by a majority of all those voting for a specific Speaker candidate, not necessarily all members. Those voting “present” and those who are absent do not count toward that total, lowering the threshold.

Former House Speakers Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and John Boehner (R-Ohio) each won the Speakership with just 216 votes in 2021 and 2015, respectively.

In the three Tuesday votes, all 434 members voted in all ballots, putting the majority threshold at 218. In the first and second ballots, McCarthy got 203 votes, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) got 212 and 19 McCarthy opponents voted for other candidates. In the third vote, a 20th member joined the detractors, putting McCarthy at 202.

It is not clear, however, how McCarthy could not only win over 11 in the group to vote for him, but get the other nine to not vote for a candidate.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) dismissed the strategy of McCarthy getting across the line with “present” votes outside a separate meeting in the Capitol with McCarthy allies and detractors in the office of House GOP Whip Tom Emmer (Minn.).

“If he’s literally trying to patchwork votes together, to scrape together the votes by trying to carve out ‘present’ votes in hopes that people don’t show up or something, I just don’t see that as the right path to a strong leadership position,” Roy said.

Roy also cast strong doubts on the notion that any of the 20 Republicans who opposed McCarthy would play ball and vote “present” on Wednesday.  

“I definitely don’t see it,” he said. 

COMMENT:  Republicans are diminishing their own standing with the American people as they fight among themselves.  We'll await today's developments with considerable concern.

January 4, 2023       Permalink

 

 

 

JANUARY 3,  2023

UPDATE AT 5:55 P.M. ET:  The House has now completed a third ballot, and no winner in the race for speaker has emerged.  The House has now adjourned.  This is an unprecedented situation, with no one knowing exactly what will happen next.  Kevin McCarthy shows no sign of giving up, and the dissident Republicans who have caused this crisis have no serious candidate of their own.

UPDATE AT 3 P.M. ET:  The House completed one full ballot in the race for speaker, with no one receiving the 218 votes needed to win.  The chamber is now in the second ballot, and, again, it doesn't look as if anyone will emerge victorious.  We are in uncharted territory, and it's impossible to say what will happen next.  The image of the Republican Party is sinking, as it is showing itself hopelessly split.

 

 

Today the Republicans in the House will decide whether they're serious about governing, and confronting the Biden administration, or whether they require professional babysitting.

I understand the sitters will be waiting in the wings, with warmed formula bottles and bibs, just in case. 

Today the House elects a new speaker, the person third in line for the presidency.  Republicans had expected that they'd have a much larger majority as a result of the midterm election, but things didn't quite work out.  They have a five-seat majority, give or take a few, depending on who shows up to vote.  That means the election for speaker could be disrupted by a few revolutionaries.  That seems to be happening.

Kevin McCarthy, Republican from California, wants to be speaker of the House.  It is his dream.  He has a majority of House Republicans behind him, but a small group of hardliners refuses to support him.   McCarthy may fall just short of the majority needed for election. 

That wasn't in the script.  And it could cause a political explosion.

Republicans must show they are ready to begin the 2024 election campaign...right now.  All business, as little division as possible.  A full agenda reflecting the same appeal that Glenn Youngkin showed when he flipped Virginia red, and that Ron DeSantis shows every day as governor of Florida.  If the GOP stalls on choosing a speaker, and subjects us to vote after vote, the image of the party will fade with great speed.  The members will look like jerks.   They will speak to TV reporters who will make them look even jerkier.  Not ready for prime time.  And if the party members get more and more frustrated, we could see some real ugliness.

It can happen.  The Republicans lack the one thing that can be useful in a moment like this – a strong, respected leader who can knock heads and make it clear who the boss is and what he wants, and who he wants in the speaker's chair.  Theoretically, the last presidential candidate is acting head of a party, the elder statesman.  But Donald Trump is...uh...different.  Too divisive for that role.  And Eisenhower is long gone.

This can be an interesting day.  Stand by.  

January 3, 2023       Permalink  

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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