As House Republicans remain divided over their next leader, a group of moderates is plotting to empower temporary Speaker Patrick McHenry to make the chamber function again.
The center-right Republican Governance Group has gathered signatures on a petition to suggest giving McHenry, R-N.C., the authority to lead the House in legislative business, according to Rep. Maria Salazar, R-Fla.
The House floor has been paralyzed since last Tuesday, when eight Republicans voted with Democrats to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. The chamber has been unable to move legislation since.
The legislative inaction comes despite a looming mid-November deadline to keep the government running and a crisis in the Middle East.
House Republicans tapped Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., to be their nominee for speaker over Judiciary Committee Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, this week. But Scalise remains well shy of the 217 votes he needs on the floor to become speaker. It’s unclear whether Scalise — or anyone else, for that matter — can clinch that number in their fractured conference.
A three-hour meeting earlier Thursday did virtually nothing to move the needle, nor did a separate huddle with Scalise and representatives from five different factions of the House Republican Conference.
“It’s time for us to keep on working,” Salazar said. “So if we need more time as a group to pick the leader, then in the meantime, we can walk and chew gum at the same time. So let’s keep on moving business while we find the permanent person for the position.”
Salazar said all the candidates for speaker are “good” and stressed the need to move forward.
“The moderates, the people in the center, they are with whomever the rest of the conference, whomever has the 217,” Salazar said. “I mean, we love Scalise. We respect Jordan. We love Kevin McCarthy. Hey, we’re all Republicans. Let’s just find the one that everyone is pleased with and then move forward and reopen the House.”
Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, similarly floated the idea of installing a caretaker as speaker.
“America needs to get to work,” he told reporters. “So I’m encouraging people to give whomever extraneous powers for 30, 45, 60, 90 days so that these individuals can run a clean campaign and that we can find a speaker for the next 12 months of this conference.”
Whether that person would be McHenry or someone else, however, is unclear. Miller said such a move would have to be approved by the House parliamentarian.