Washington Update - October 16, 2023

Billy Moore    Dc2

The Senate returns from recess on Monday to vote on a judicial nomination. It is uncertain when the House will return to legislative session as the majority Republican Conference flounders in its effort to elect a new speaker and resume legislative work.

Last week, House Republicans nominated Majority Leader Steve Scalise to be speaker, but he withdrew hours later as it became clear ultra-conservatives in the conference would oppose his election on the floor, dooming his candidacy. On Friday, Republicans nominated Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, but he appears unlikely to rally as much support as Scalise, likewise dooming his ascent.

House Republicans face pressure to conclude the impasse as lawmakers clamor for action to aid Israel in its war with Hamas, to replenish disaster response accounts and to pass spending bills in advance of the November 17 deadline when government funding expires. Democrats and most Republicans also want action on aid for Ukraine to repel its Russian invaders.

The longer ultra-conservative Republicans continue to disrupt caucus unity, two options for restoring power to the House will grow in support. One is for Republican moderates to join with most Democrats to elect a speaker who will exert bipartisan leadership. At the point a bipartisan effort begins to look realistic, however, Republicans will probably coalesce behind the short-term empowerment of Republican Acting Speaker Patrick McHenry to address the most urgent items on the House agenda.

A short-term solution won’t solve the long-term problem within the Republican conference, casting doubt over its ability to assert its institutional power in concert with the Democratic Senate and the White House.

Amid a strong labor market, last week’s inflation report suggests inflation holding steady around 3 percent, above the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target. With the Middle East war threatening higher energy inflation, future interest rate boosts seem more likely.