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January 6, 2023

What to expect in Washington (January 6)

After a total of 11 ballots and an increasing number of concessions offered to conservative members, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to gain a majority of votes (which is generally 218) that is required for the House Speakership January 5 and the House adjourned until noon today. However, there were some indications late yesterday of a potential deal between McCarthy allies and the conservatives who have thus far withheld their support. Punchbowl News reported that the proposed deal addresses the budget process, perhaps by bringing up the 12 annual spending bills individually, rather than as an "omnibus" package, and guaranteeing the conservatives seats on the House Rules Committee and other top committees. It remains to be seen whether the development breaks the logjam and if the voting process will continue into the weekend or next week.

The Washington Post reported that "McCarthy offered to lower from five to one the number of members required to sponsor a resolution to force a vote on ousting the speaker — a change that the California Republican had previously said he would not accept." The report said the proposed agreement could sway some holdouts, and "the expectation is that though McCarthy will not get all the votes necessary to become speaker, it will show considerable momentum for him" and allow for an additional round of negotiations.

Bloomberg Government reported on another perspective, saying, "Some House Republicans are worried that Rep. Kevin McCarthy may be going too far in making concessions to the far right in order to win their support for his bid to be speaker … Rank-and-file conservatives and moderates [said] they are increasingly frustrated by the rules changes and potential committee assignments McCarthy is offering … "

A New York Times story said second-ranking House Republican Steve Scalise (R-LA) "is seen by many members of his conference as the most obvious backup to turn to if Mr. McCarthy cannot put together the votes to become speaker and is, eventually, encouraged by his colleagues to drop out … It's not clear that Mr. Scalise would be able to get the majority to become speaker any more readily than Mr. McCarthy. He has some of the same problems with the party's hard-right flank as the California Republican does, in part because as whip he has at times staked out neutral or mainstream positions when his colleagues have gone the other way."

Ways and Means Committee Member Kevin Hern (R-OK) got at least two votes for Speaker yesterday. The Wall Street Journal reported, "Asked by reporters if he was interested in the job, Mr. Hern said it would be something he'd have to consider and pray about. Mr. Hern is from Oklahoma and will be the chair of the Republican Study Committee this Congress. It is a group of about 170 Republicans who take consensus policy positions on key issues. The sizable block means that Mr. Hern already has a powerful voice in Congress. It also means he's well-liked by many of his peers."

The Speakership stalemate has kept new House members from being sworn in, new committee chairmen (including for the Ways and Means and Budget Committees) from being selected, member assignments that have been part of the Speakership negotiations from being finalized, and the legislative agenda of the Republican-led House from getting underway.

Ways and Means - The three-member race for the Ways and Means chairmanship among Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), Jason Smith (R-MO), and Adrian Smith (R-NE) is on hold with the Speakership impasse and, according to the January 5 Politico Morning Tax, "growing increasingly heated" as Rep. Jason Smith is said to be seeking to keep the Budget Committee chairmanship "in reserve in case he doesn't win Ways and Means." This reportedly isn't sitting well with those also vying for the top Budget post, including Ways and Means members Jodey Arrington (R-TX) and Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), as well as Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA).

Congress — Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced that she will not run for re-election in 2024. The Washington Post reported that those who may run for the open seat include Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Haley Stevens (D-MI), "Tudor Dixon, who lost the governor's race to Gretchen Whitmer (D) last year, and Rep.-elect John James (R), who lost to Stabenow in 2018." Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested he would not run.

There has been significant attention paid to the 2024 Senate election map, with 20 Democrats up for re-election plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats, compared to only 11 Republicans up for re-election. An article in the January 3 WSJ made the following points:

  • "Three of the Senate seats that Democrats are defending are in Republican-dominated states: Mr. Trump won West Virginia in 2020 by 39 percentage points, Montana by 16 points and Ohio by 8 points.
  • Additionally, five contests are in states that President Biden won by less than 3 percentage points: Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin …

In 2016, every Senate race went the same way the presidential election did, and in 2020 only Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, broke the trend. While Ms. Collins won, the GOP presidential candidate, Mr. Trump, lost in the state to his Democratic opponent, Mr. Biden."


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Washington Council Ernst & Young
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