Two days after Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz joined with seven other Republicans and the entirety of the House Democratic caucus to remove California’s Kevin McCarthy from the speakership, the leftists at The New Republic sounded almost giddy at the idea that they had possibly bitten off more than they could chew.
“Speaker Hakeem Jeffries: three words that have many Democrats salivating on television and in the halls of the Capitol as House Republicans remain in total disarray,” wrote Capitol Hill reporter Pablo Manríquez before finally conceding — 19 paragraphs into a 19-paragraph piece — that the “most likely” scenario is that Jeffries can’t garner the votes to ascend to the role.
Granted, there’s some reason to wonder what’s going to happen next week when the House reconvenes to hear from candidates for the position and then to hold as many ballots as it takes, presumably, to replace speaker pro tempore Patrick McHenry on a more permanent — or at least, longer-lasting — basis.
Never in American history has a speaker ever been removed by his fellow House members; in fact, more than a century had passed since anyone had even filed a motion to do so.
Gaetz, claiming to have been angered by how much McCarthy worked with Democrats, worked with literally all the Democrats in the House to oust him.
It’s uncharted territory, so “Now what?” would seem to be a fair question.
The current frontrunners for the position are probably Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, but it’s unclear that either of them has the votes to win on the first ballot.
“If this is a protracted process, the margins are so thin, I wouldn’t rule that out,” Democrat Rep. Gerry Connolly said of Jeffries’ chances to take the gavel, even in a Republican-controlled House.
“I’d give it a slim chance today, but ask me again in four weeks if we haven’t elected a speaker,” he added.
With a November 17 deadline to avoid a government shutdown looming, the pressure will be on to get a speaker in place and get on with House business.
If Republicans can’t get that done on their own, it’s not completely out of the question that a handful of Republicans would reach across the aisle to support a Democratic candidate rather than continue vote after vote in an otherwise impotent Congress.
Of the 22 House Democrats asked by The New Republic about how they planned to vote next week, all said Jeffries. “None waffled,” Manríquez wrote.
Assuming that all 212 Democrats vote the same way — and that all are able to be present for the voting — Jeffries would need only five Republicans to come out on top.
Manríquez theorized that some of the 18 House Republicans representing districts won by President Joe Biden over former President Donald Trump in 2020 might be willing to cross that line. He floated other theories — some more far-fetched than others — that he said might lead to an additional 14 leaning toward a Jeffries speakership.
At that point, however, members of the GOP majority could simply file additional motions to vacate, as Manríquez wisely noted. So even if that were somehow to happen and Jeffries wound up with the gavel, it seems unlikely that he’d keep it for long or that he’d get much done while he held it.
On the other hand, it bears repeating: We’re in uncharted territory. There’s really no way to predict with anything close to certainty where the House goes from here.
As Manríquez himself wrote: “The way things are in the House these days, you can’t rule out anything.”