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October 16, 2023

What to expect in Washington (October 16)

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) was expected to spend the weekend trying to build support for his candidacy for the House Speakership after winning 152 votes in an all-Republican vote on Friday, short of the 217 votes that would be needed to win the position in a vote of the full House (with no Democrats expected to vote in his favor) that may occur as soon as Tuesday at noon. Politico reported last night that Jordan may have a Republican challenger in the vote. The House is scheduled to be back in today at 6 p.m., as the turmoil surrounding the lack of a long-term Speaker overshadows any other business in the chamber for a third straight week.

The New York Times reported on Saturday that "Jordan and his allies have begun a right-wing pressure campaign against Republicans opposed to electing him speaker, working to unleash the rage of the party's base voters against any lawmaker standing in the way of his election." The story said of Jordan, who has the backing of former President Trump for the post, that his "closeness with the former president has given him unparalleled cachet with the party base, and his backers were counting on that to help him prevail in a vote that could come as early as Tuesday."

"Lawmakers pointed to Jordan's support from grass-roots Republicans and conservative media as potentially putting pressure on his opponents to back him," the Wall Street Journal reported, adding that the math to take him from 152 to 217 votes is challenging. "If Jordan can't win a majority of the House's 433 members, other Republican candidates could throw their hats in the ring. Potential contenders include Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern, chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, vice chairman of the House Republican conference."

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said on Fox News October 15 that the absence of a Speaker is a "terrible situation" to be in because "we could be on a precipice of having another world war." He denounced his own ouster for wanting to keep the government open and ensure soldiers' bills are paid, as well as the single-member threshold for bringing a vote to end a speakership. "I think Jim Jordan can get there. I'm one who understands how difficult it is," he said. "I did walk in with more support during this time, but I believe, at the end of the day, Jim can get there. And I'm doing everything I can to help him be able to become speaker."

There has been significant reporting about the challenges of the secret ballot process used by Republicans to select their nominee for Speaker. The Sunday Washington Post reported that some Republicans could fall in line once they are required to vote in an alphabetical roll call on the House floor and could then be subject to retribution from conservative primary voters. "I think there's a clear path to 217. But as long as you're doing secret ballots, it's a lot harder to get 217. We've got to break cover," said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD).

Meanwhile, as Axios reported last night, "Democrats are beginning to seriously entertain the notion of helping enable Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) to pass critical legislation, a potential short-term fix as GOP infighting continues to paralyze the House." Politico reported Friday afternoon that four centrist Democrats are proposing to support Rep. McHenry having "temporary, expanded authorities," in 15-day increments, to allow the House to take up emergency aid for Ukraine or Israel, a short-term bill that extends government funding through Jan. 11, or general consideration of fiscal 2024 spending bills.

This week — The House Ways & Means Committee has postponed a field hearing on "Access to Health Care in America: Challenges in Rural and Underserved Communities" in Greenville, North Carolina that had been set for Tuesday, October 17 (at 9 a.m.). On Wednesday, October 18 (at 2:00 p.m.), the Social Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on improper payments, and the Oversight Subcommittee will hold a hearing on pandemic fraud on Thursday, October 19, 2023 (at 9 a.m.).

The Senate returns to session (following a one-week recess) at 3 p.m. today (October 16), with the next vote on a judicial nomination at 5:30 p.m. The Foreign Relations Committee is holding a nomination hearing for former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to be Ambassador to Israel on Wednesday, October 18 (at 10:30 a.m.) and Reuters reported that the full Senate may vote on the nomination as soon as Thursday given the urgency of the matter. The only business currently on the Senate Finance Committee schedule is a hearing, "Medicare Advantage Annual Enrollment: Cracking Down on Deceptive Practices and Improving Senior Experiences," set for Wednesday, October 18 (10 a.m.).

The ABA Virtual 2023 Fall Tax Meeting, with panels on international tax and energy among other topics, is October 16-20.

On Thursday, Oct. 19 (at 9:00 a.m.), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and other stakeholders join Washington Post Live for conversations about the U.S. health-care system, the cost of prescription medication and ways to improve the patient experience.

The EY Webcast, "Tax in a time of transition: legislative, economic, regulatory and IRS developments," is October 20. Register here.


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For additional information concerning this Alert, please contact:
Washington Council Ernst & Young
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