Republicans have been locked out of power for four years in the U.S. House of Representatives but might have to wait a few days longer before taking full control of the chamber, thanks to the inability of GOP lawmakers to agree on who should serve as speaker.
If Republicans cannot elect a speaker when the new Congress takes office on Jan. 3, the party cannot pass a rules package governing how the House will operate. Without concrete rules in place, the House cannot move legislation or approve committee assignments for lawmakers.
That means committees cannot begin issuing subpoenas or conducting oversight of the Biden administration — something GOP leaders pledged on the campaign trail would begin on day one of a Republican majority.
‘This is a sh– show,’ said a centrist House Republican. ‘Without a speaker, you can’t organize the House, which means committees can’t send subpoenas or pay staff. We’re supposed to govern, but you can’t govern without a speaker in place.’
Some of the items that House Republicans will have to delay if a speaker cannot emerge the week of Jan. 3 are ceremonial. For instance, lawmakers will not be able to take ceremonial swearing-in photos without a speaker in place.
Other delays, though, could have serious impacts. The House Administration Committee has warned that without a rules package in place by Jan. 13, House committees will not be able to start paying staff.
‘Committees need to be aware that should a House Rules package not be adopted by end of business on January 13 no committee will be able to process payroll since the committee’s authority for the new Congress is not yet confirmed,’ the administration panel warned in a memo to lawmakers.
Without the ability to process payroll, congressional committees might be forced to furlough staff. Several GOP aides told Fox News Digital that would adversely impact the ability of House Republicans to launch oversight investigations into the Biden administration.
Outside of oversight, committees would be limited in conducting other functions, including hearings on pending legislation. That might not be as much of a logistical problem if a speaker and rules package is not in place.
It does impact, however, the GOP’s ability to show voters its priorities since being entrusted with control of the House.
Incoming House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., unveiled a list of 10 bills on Friday that Republicans want to pass within their first two weeks of running the chamber. The list includes legislation to address the immigration crisis, block taxpayer funding for abortion and combat rising crime.
‘The American people spoke on November 8th and decided it was time for a new direction,’ Scalise wrote in a letter to House Republicans.
None of the bills can be considered without a speaker and rules package in place.
The predicament Republicans find themselves in comes after the party won a narrow House majority in the midterm elections. Despite significant talk of a red wave, Republicans are only set to hold a narrow 222-seat majority compared to 213 seats for Democrats.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is already seeing the difficulty of managing such a narrow majority with his bid to become speaker. Although backed by an overwhelming majority of his caucus, the embattled California Republican has drawn the opposition of at least five GOP lawmakers.
The opposition is potentially insurmountable given that 218 votes are needed to clinch the speakership on the House floor on Jan. 3, assuming every lawmaker is present and votes.
McCarthy’s allies say there is no alternative to his leadership even as GOP opponents have become entrenched.
‘Kevin has the support of the overwhelming majority of us, and we will be voting for him, whether it’s one ballot or 100 ballots,’ said Rep.-elect Mike Lawler, R-N.Y.