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High stakes GOP House speaker election underway between Jordan, Scalise

House Republican are hold a closed-door, secret ballot Tuesday in hopes of emerging with candidate who will assuredly win the post with needing Democrat votes.

Published: October 10, 2023 11:06pm

Updated: October 11, 2023 1:19pm

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and fellow GOP Congressman Jim Jordan are competing Wednesday for the speakership before the House GOP conference following the House vote to remove former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The closed-door meeting in which the secret-ballot election will take place is now underway on Capitol Hill. Prior to the election for speaker, the House GOP conference considered a rule change that would increase the threshold needed to win the speaker nomination from a majority of the GOP conference to a simple majority of 217 votes. The change would likely have avoided the speaker vote on the House floor from going multiple rounds like it did in January with McCarthy's nomination. The motion to raise the threshold was tabled at the meeting, Just the News has learned.

It is still unclear at this time when the House floor vote for speaker will take place.

Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, made their pitches and took questions at a candidate forum on Tuesday evening, which multiple GOP lawmakers said didn't yield a clear frontrunner. 

Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) addressed reporters outside of the GOP speaker vote meeting on Wednesday and declined to say who she’s supporting.

“The candidate knows, but at this point in time, no candidate the majority or the requisite number of votes in order to advance,” she said. “So, we have a very long day ahead. I would say, eat your wheaties."

Votes in the House are paused until a speaker is formally elected by a House floor vote. House GOP members have called on Congress to pass legislation to assist Israel in their response to the terror attack carried out by Hamas, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis and 14 Americans. More Ukraine war funding will also be debated in the context of the next spending bill that Congress must pass before the Nov. 17 deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

Jordan told House members on Tuesday that another continuing resolution (CR) would have to be put on the floor for a vote to keep the government funded to give lawmakers enough time to pass a larger-scale appropriations bill. Prior to his removal in an unprecedented vote last week, McCarthy put a 45-day CR on the floor that received votes from Democrats to the ire of the conservative wing of his conference.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who sponsored the motion to vacate the chair, and other conservatives argued that the GOP-led House should not be governing by passing CRs. Gaetz advocated for the House passing 12 "single subject" spending bills to fund each cabinet agency separately as a way to curb federal spending. Under McCarthy's speakership, the House passed 4 of the 12 appropriations bills prior to his ousting over moving ahead with the 45-day CR. 

After the forum, Gaetz said on Tuesday that both candidates would be an "upgrade" from McCarthy. 

According to Gaetz, Jordan said at the forum that he would support passing a temporary spending bill with "automatic cuts" to current spending levels to buy more time for the passage of more individual spending bills. Other members said Jordan pitched a 1% reduction in spending under the CR.

Gaetz said he is undecided on who he is supported but said he would pray about it.

Scalise reportedly also committed to passing individual appropriations bills at the forum. He didn't endorse the passage of another CR when addressing the press after the meeting. However, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) told reporters that Scalise did float the need for another CR at the forum, according to a report.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) was one of the 8 Republicans who voted along with all Democrats to remove McCarthy last week. Buck said he was "not thrilled with either candidate" following the forum.

"I don't know that they are the only candidates who are going to arise. I think that we will have other candidates that step forward if this becomes a mess tomorrow,” he said. “I think at three or four in the afternoon, if you don't see white smoke, we've got a mess.”

Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla) said after the meeting that "no one is close" to the current simple majority of 217 needed to win the speakership. Greene said the same following the forum, according to reports.

Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) told reporters he's not sure that there's going to be a speaker nominee on Wednesday.

"I think it's 50-50 odds right now," he said.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who voted for the removal of McCarthy, endorsed Jordan after the forum while wearing a shirt with an A on it.

"I'm wearing the scarlet letter after the week I just had last week being a woman up here being demonized for my vote, my voice," she said.

On Monday, McCarthy responded to House members who want him to remain speaker, saying he would do whatever the GOP conference decides. He confirmed on Tuesday that he asked members not to formally nominate him for the position ahead of Wednesday's election.

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