Senate. The Senate this week will continue to consider nominations and give final approval to the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House last week. Also on the floor of both chambers will be a continuing resolution to extend government funding beyond Dec. 16, likely through Dec. 23.
House. In addition to the continuing resolution, the House will vote on a handful of other bills, including the EAGLE Act, which would eliminate per-country caps for employment-based immigrant visas and lift annual caps on family-based green cards. Over three dozen bills, including 19 to rename post offices, will be considered under suspension of the rules.
FY 2023 Appropriations. Top Democrats and Republicans have yet to come to an agreement on how much should be spent in FY 2023 for defense and non-defense programs. Negotiations are continuing, but there is not enough time to finish work on an omnibus appropriations measure before the current continuing resolution expires Dec. 16. To avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers this week plan to approve another continuing resolution, which is expected to give them an additional week to work on details of the 12 appropriations measures.
House Speakership. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy continues to work behind the scenes to line up the votes needed to elect him Speaker in the 118th Congress. Five Republicans have said they will not vote for McCarthy and will also not vote “present” on the House floor.
A majority of those present and voting is required to be elected Speaker. If Republicans end up with 222 seats in the next Congress and all 435 Members are present and voting on Jan. 3, McCarthy would have to win 218 votes to be elected Speaker and could not afford to lose more than four GOP votes. However, the number that constitutes a majority would be lower than 218 if some members are not present or choose not to vote. Since 1913, five Speakers have been elected with fewer than 218 votes, including Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who won the gavel with 216 votes in 2021.
When the vote for Speaker is taken, Members state aloud the name of the candidate they are voting for. (Incoming Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries will be the Democratic nominee.) If no candidate wins a majority on the first vote, the House goes to a second ballot and then more if needed. According to a Congressional Research Service report, no restrictions are imposed on who may receive votes in the subsequent ballots and no candidate is eliminated based on receiving the fewest votes.
No one expects the balloting in 2023 to repeat the vote 167 years ago, when there were 21 candidates vying for the post in December 1855 and it took two months and 133 ballots for the House to elect Nathaniel Banks as Speaker.
House Chairs. The uncertainty surrounding the Speaker’s race has led to a delay in Republicans choosing chairs of four committees. There has been no official postponement of the selections by the Republican Steering Committee, but there is speculation that the contested chairmanships may not be finalized until after the Speaker’s election on Jan. 3.
The most closely watched race is for the gavel of the Ways and Means Committee. Vying for the post are Reps. Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Jason Smith (Mo.), and Adrian Smith (Neb.). Rep. Jason Smith is currently the top Republican on the Budget Committee so the outcome of the Ways and Means race will have an impact on the race for Budget chair. Other contested races are at Homeland Security and Education and Labor, where Rep. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) was granted a waiver from the term limit rules by the GOP Steering Committee and is running against Rep. Tim Walberg (Minn.).
Committee Action of Note
Nebraska Senate. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) plans to resign from his seat on Jan. 8 to become president of the University of Florida, and outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) is the leading candidate to replace him. The incoming governor, Jim Pillen (R), will take office on Jan. 5 and appoint Sasse’s successor. Pillen is taking applications for the seat through Dec. 23, and Ricketts announced Dec. 6 that he is applying. The appointment would run until the next statewide election, in 2024.
Indiana Senate. Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said today he will run for governor in 2024 instead of re-election.
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