Don’t Republicans know how negotiations work?

After majority leader Steve Scalise withdrew from the race of House speaker late Thursday evening following his failure to get enough support from his party members to ensure that he would get the necessary majority on the House floor, it seemed like Jim Jordan, the person whom he had defeated just a little earlier, had a clear shot at getting the nomination and the required House vote.

The rules require a speaker to get a majority of people present in the chamber and voting, which means that anyone who is present but just votes ‘present’ does not count towards any of the totals. That opens up various mathematical possibilities. One is that if the party persuades enough extremists to vote ‘present’ to enable a Republican to get 213 votes (out of their 221), that will be just enough to defeat the 212 Democratic votes that will go to their leader Hakeem Jeffries. In January, McCarthy became speaker on the 15th ballot, after six Republican holdouts finally agreed to vote ‘present’, leaving him needing just 216 to win which he was finally able to get.

But on Friday, things went awry again. Just minutes before the vote behind closed doors, Austin Scott, a congressperson from Georgia threw his hat into the ring and while Jordan got 124 votes, Scott got a surprising 81, even though he is hardly a household name. Then they took a second vote on the crucial question of whether the members would vote for Jordan on the floor of the House and he got only 155 votes in favor, with 55 against. This 155 is less than the 188 that McCarthy got in his first round of voting in January, which means that Jordan has to work even harder to get people to switch their minds.

Who is Scott? It turns out that he is a vocal ally of McCarthy.

The seven-term representative told CNN’s Manu Raju on Thursday that the GOP’s inability to elect a new speaker “makes us look like a bunch of idiots.”

“We’ve got a very small group of people that they have to have everything their way. We had a group that sabotaged Speaker McCarthy and now we’ve had a group that sabotaged Steve Scalise, both of them great people,” he said.

Scott has been a vocal defender of McCarthy, criticizing the Republicans who voted to remove the California Republican as speaker. Earlier this month, the Georgia lawmaker said Republican leadership “will have to decide to either hold these members accountable or lose the faith of the rest of the conference.”

Although McCarthy has said that he supports Jordan for speaker, the fact that a strong ally of his deprived Jordan of a clear majority suggests that McCarthy is working behind the scenes to sabotage Jordan, maybe with an eye to being renominated again. In this party of backstabbers, anything is possible.

So what did Republicans then do? They closed shop and went home for the weekend! This astonishes me. With the budget deadline coming up on November 17th, there needs to be a speaker to prepare and shepherd one through the process and and one would think that this would motivate them to keep working at finding a consensus candidate, even if it takes driving people to exhaustion so that the various factions give in and coalesce. What is more important for them to do at home? Mow the lawn? Part of the problem is that there is no acknowledged leader of the House Republicans to drive the process. There is no permanent speaker and the majority leader Scalise lacks support.

So once again, some Republicans are blaming Democrats for not rescuing Republicans from themselves.

[Mike] 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.”

[Michael] McCaul is among a growing group of Republicans amplifying calls to expand [interim speaker Patrick] 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.

Really? What world is Rogers living in? He thinks that it is up to Democrats to make an opening offer to help Republicans get out of a mess of their own creation? Why should they? This is not their problem. And besides, in the real world, that is not how negotiations work. It is the side that is in deep trouble and seeking help from others to say what they are willing to offer to get that help, not the other way around.

But that is typical of today’s Republican party. They do not seem to be able to grasp basic political realities like negotiations and compromise because they have got so accustomed to grandstanding, demonizing anyone who disagrees with them, laying down ultimatums, and then whining when they don’t get their way. Furthermore, if the Republican extremists cannot support someone from their own party to become speaker, imagine their fury if some of their colleagues make deals with Democrats. They will do everything in their power to paralyze the workings of the House and the Republicans who made the initial deal will have to keep defying them time and again by aligning with Democrats. Imagine how that will play with the Republican base. I just cannot see them having the stomach for that

But as an intellectual exercise, what could Republicans offer Democrats in order to get a speaker? At the absolute minimum, they would have to agree to drop the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden and concede that SSAT lost the 2020 election. But Democrats would and should surely ask for more, such as a continuing resolution to fund the government at least until the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2024 and preferably until January 2025 when a new House would be sworn in and maybe there is less craziness. Democrats could also ask for joint leadership of committees. Any of this would, of course, be anathema to the extremists beholden to serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) and his MAGA cult, who would go ballistic.

So frankly, I do not see that kind of deal happening, though some conservative Democrats are supposedly talking with some Republicans.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    ‘Twas poor ol’ McCarthy who needed 15 ballots to reach the Speakership, 9 long months ago.

    If the Dems could pry away just 5 Repubs from Biden-voting districts, Hakeem Jeffries would become the next Speaker.

  2. seachange says

    #2 @ Pierce

    Republicans who deviated from holiness to impeach Trump didn’t just get shunned, they got their butts kicked by the party. In order for them to decide that our country is more sacred than their career, some new lord would have to come down from the sky.

    There totally have been newly faithful with false-Democrat-belief who have changed parties lately in the news. We haven’t seen converts going the other way.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    seachange @ # 4: Republicans who deviated from holiness to impeach Trump didn’t just get shunned, they got their butts kicked …

    In my scenario @ # 2, the Republican defectors would have to go full Charlie Crist and overtly join the Democratic Party. (That’s why I specified members from Biden districts.)

    It’s definitely a long shot -- but I don’t see any high-probability resolutions at this point, do you?

  4. says

    This astonishes me.

    Really? I mean … really?

    It would take a lot to astonish me these days regarding the GOP, like maybe, Jordan and Scalise jointly declaring that all leading Democrats are really lizard people who live in the center of the Earth and who eat humans, that is, when they’re not cavorting with Atlantians and centaurs. And even that, I have to say, would just make me shrug my shoulders and mutter to no one in particular, “Yeah, OK”.

    Crippling the government and/or economy is not sadly unavoidable collateral damage for these folks (because they’re already taken car of). What it is, is a fortunate side effect (i.e., feature, not a bug).

  5. says

    And whether or not any of this will make a difference in 2024, I think, is really up in the air. I mean, it’s not like I’m hearing a constant drum beat from local and national media proclaiming that the GOP is completely incompetent and screwing up everything (because that wouldn’t be “balanced reporting”, right?). Couple that with the fact that a large number of the voting public literally believe in fairy tales or can’t figure out a 15% tip without a phone app, and you can see the pickle we’re in.

  6. jrkrideau says

    As an outsider one has to say the USA has arrived at its own version of “the Year of the Four Emperors”.

  7. John Morales says

    jrkrideau, wouldn’t that be “the Year of the Four Presidents”?

    (Not the year of the four functionaries)

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