Washington Update - October 30, 2023

Billy Moore    Dc2

Three weeks after ousting Kevin McCarthy, House Republicans unanimously elected the party’s fourth choice to be Speaker of the House: Mike Johnson. Johnson’s elevation results from his ability to align with all factions of the Republican Conference, the party’s exhaustion with failure, and the likelihood that another unsuccessful candidacy would have empowered a small band of Republican institutionalists to align with Democrats in a bipartisan leadership coalition.

Democrats moved to define the 4-term Louisianian as extreme, pointing to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, cut Social Security and Medicare, and prohibit abortion and gay marriage. Speaker Johnson waived off questions about his record and moved to advance legislation on the House floor. 

Speaker Johnson has made annual appropriations bills his priority, hoping to win confidence among Republican conservatives that will enable passage of another Continuing Resolution (CR) that is due November 17 to avoid a shutdown. He has indicated the next CR should extend spending through January or April. His timing for other key legislation – the farm bill, authorizations for defense and aviation programs, expiring health provisions, and more – is not yet clear.

The House approved the Energy-Water appropriations bill last week and is scheduled to debate three more annual spending bills and aid for Israel this week. In addition to confirming nominations, Senators are poised to pass a three-bill appropriations package this week.

Johnson is the least experienced House Speaker since 1883 and confronts a steep learning curve to manage a national agenda, the House floor, and incessant individual requests of his colleagues. Despite his party support, Republican Representatives have created first week headaches, filing motions to expel and censure colleagues that may take critical floor time away from the Speaker’s agenda.

Federal Reserve officials meet this week and seem likely to pause interest rate increases based on milder inflation and surprisingly strong economic growth.