Republican Plan to Empower Temporary Speaker Unravels

Lawrence Wilson
By Lawrence Wilson
October 19, 2023Congress
Republican Plan to Empower Temporary Speaker Unravels
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) walks through the halls at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 19, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A plan to temporarily empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) to conduct House business appears to be faltering.

Speaker Designate Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) favored the plan after his candidacy lost rather than gained support among Republicans in a second ballot cast on Oct. 18 in the House.

“I’m still running for speaker and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race,” Mr. Jordan said Thursday. His spokesperson said a third vote is expected at 10 a.m. on Friday.

The measure was proposed in slightly different forms by Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.). It would elect Mr. McHenry as speaker pro tempore until either Nov. 17 or January 2024—or until the election of a speaker, whichever comes first.

Republicans met on Oct. 19 to consider the idea but adjourned without action. On leaving the tense two-hour session, a number of members said there was no clear plan to move forward with the proposal, though others still believed the matter might be brought to the floor.

“The majority of folks in that room seemed like they’re going to vote no on that resolution,” Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) said.

Clarification of Role

The resolution was needed to clarify that, as speaker pro tempore, Mr. McHenry does have the authority to act as the speaker in all ways until a new speaker is named, according to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Mr. McHenry was designated speaker pro tempore thanks to a post-9/11 rule created to ensure that the House could continue to function in case of a vacancy in the speakership. According to the rule, every elected speaker must list several members’ names to be tapped in order should the chair become vacant. Mr. McHenry was first on the list.

“It’s about the continuity of government,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I always believed the names I was putting on the list could carry on and keep the government running until you elect a new speaker.”

However, after Mr. McCarthy was removed from office by a vote to vacate the chair on Oct. 3, questions were raised about the limits of the speaker pro tempore’s power. The House rules state that a speaker pro tempore designated by the emergency list “shall act as Speaker pro tempore until the election of a Speaker or a Speaker pro tempore. Pending such election, the Member acting as Speaker pro tempore may exercise such authorities as the office of Speaker may be necessary and appropriate to that end.”

With pressure building for Congress to take action in support of Israel in its war with Hamas and to complete the appropriations process before the Nov. 17 deadline, advocates of the plan saw it as a way to reopen the House after 16 days of inactivity.

“If we’re going to name a temporary speaker, we need to vest that person with the full power and authority of the office so they can … do everything that would be permitted of a speaker,” Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.) said.

“Right now, we need to do CPR. We need to get in front of the American people and get the House of Representatives back open.”

Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) sees the resolution as the best path forward given the deadlock over a choice of a speaker.

“We are at a standstill,” she said. “We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing. So I support it.”


A number of members argued against the idea as constitutionally unsound and an evasion of their duty to elect a speaker.

“I think that is woefully unconstitutional,” Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) said in an interview with NTD, a sister media outlet of The Epoch Times. “We need to come to an agreement on who’s going to stand in that place for the next year and a half and actually lead the conference conservatively and be elected speaker—not change the rules and empower a speaker that’s never been elected to that position.”

“We cannot just drop powers in the lap of somebody. The House has to elect a speaker,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) said.

Extending the temporary speakership of Mr. McHenry would also provide additional time for Mr. Jordan to gather support, according to Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.). Though he supports Mr. Jordan, Mr. Norman sees that as an unfair advantage.

“No one’s had extra time to make their case,” Mr. Norman said. “His time in the arena is now.”

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) hinted that Democrats might favor the resolution to empower Mr. McHenry, but only once Mr. Jordan’s candidacy had been laid to rest.

“If we can clear that hurdle, there’s a pathway forward that we’re willing to consider, discuss, and then make a decision in the best interest of the American people,” Mr. Jeffries said on Oct. 18.

As support for the proposal seemed to be dwindling, Mr. Kelly was stoic about the prospect of defeat.

“I thought it was maybe something that could help people get through this and get back to work,” he said. “If it’s not the will of the conference, it’s not the will of the conference. I’ll still get up tomorrow, I’ll still go to Mass, and I’ll still pray for the country.”

Jackson Richman, Joseph Lord, Emel Akan, Ryusuke Abe, and NTD’s Melina Wisecup contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times.

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