Top House Republican Wants Help From Democrats to Pick a Speaker

(Bloomberg) -- The Republican leaders of two national security committees called for dramatic action to overcome the standoff in the election of a US House speaker, which has left the chamber paralyzed and unable to address aid to Israel or conduct any other business.

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Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers and Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul acknowledged Thursday that their party is unable to get 217 votes to elect a speaker solely on the backs of Republican support. Republicans can afford to lose only four votes if Democrats remain united behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Rogers suggested Republicans might have to cut a deal with Democrats and called on Jeffries to spell out what concessions he would require to help the GOP elect a speaker.

“They put us in this ditch along with eight traitors,” the Alabama Republican said, referring to hardline GOP dissidents who toppled Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week. “We’re still the majority party, we’re willing to work with them, but they gotta tell us what they need.”

McCaul later said the House might need to grant legislative powers to Patrick McHenry, the speaker pro tem, so the chamber can act on a national security package for Israel. Doing so would almost certainly require some Democratic support.

“I don’t think we’re gonna have any other option,” McCaul said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power,” given the urgency to pass an aid package for Israel. “I don’t think that’s the ideal scenario,” he added, but said no one in his conference seems capable of reaching 217 votes.

Their comments address the deep divisions within the GOP ranks that have immobilized the party for more than a week since McCarthy’s Oct. 3 ouster.

Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who on Wednesday clinched the Republican speaker nomination in a narrow secret ballot vote against Jim Jordan of Ohio, remains far short of the vote tally he needs to win an election on the floor, and his holdouts show no signs of budging.

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Jeffries indicated that Democrats were willing to work with Republicans, but he did not specify what his party would demand in return. An earlier power-sharing proposal was rejected by McCarthy before his historic ouster.

“The House of Representatives has been broken by chaos, dysfunction and extremism,” Jeffries said. “The only way out is to enter into an enlightened bipartisan coalition of the willing in order to get things back on track.”

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Rogers said Scalise is in the same situation McCarthy was in when it took 15 ballots to elect him in January — and that many in his party would never get behind Jordan, a conservative firebrand. The leadership vacuum, he said, leaves Republicans without a clear path forward that endangers national security and risks imperiling Israel in its war with Hamas.

“To limit ourselves to just getting 217 out of our conference I think is not a wise path forward,” Rogers said.

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McCaul is among a growing group of Republicans amplifying calls to expand McHenry’s temporary authority to allow him to preside over legislative business. Another Republican, David Joyce of Ohio, told reporters he’s contacted Democrats about expanding McHenry’s authority for a limited period of time — perhaps 30 or 60 days — and that Democrats have been amenable to that approach to act on issues like Israel.

Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas supports that idea. The “only other option,” he said, is for Democrats to enable election of a Republican speaker nominee by voting “present,” lowering the threshold needed for victory.

Jeffries has offered discussions on a bipartisan path forward. But Rogers said Democrats should make a specific offer that could provide a basis for opening negotiations.

“They haven’t offered jack,” Rogers said.

--With assistance from Billy House, Laura Litvan, Erik Wasson, Joe Mathieu and Kailey Leinz.

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