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Calls grow to elect McHenry temporary House speaker

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives, awaits the vote on a new speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Oct. 17, 2023.

Saul Loeb | Afp | Getty Images

With Rep. Jim Jordan’s candidacy for House speaker in doubt Wednesday, a growing number of Republicans and Democrats were coalescing around a plan to formally elect Rep. Patrick McHenry as speaker pro tempore, to allow Congress to perform basic functions.

Jordan, who has now lost two consecutive House votes to be elected speaker, has pushed back on the idea.

“I don’t think that’s the right way to go,” Jordan, the far-right Republican from Ohio, told NBC News when asked about the calls to empower McHenry.

Jordan lost his first ballot for speaker on Tuesday, with 20 Republicans and all Democrats voting against him. He lost by an even wider margin in a second ballot Wednesday afternoon, with 22 Republicans voting against him.

The House has been without a speaker for two weeks, following the ouster of GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California spurred by a small bloc of right-wing Republicans.

Congress is facing a Nov. 17 deadline to craft and pass a spending bill to keep the federal government from shutting down.

Sen. Tim Scott: Make Rep. Patrick McHenry speaker pro tempore so funding for Israel can move forward

McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, was designated speaker pro tempore after McCarthy’s removal.

One GOP lawmaker, Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, has already put forward a resolution to elect McHenry as speaker pro tempore, expanding his currently limited powers.

Doing so “would allow the House to move critical legislation, including appropriations bills, to the floor for full consideration” by the fast-approaching government funding deadline, Kelly said in a statement Tuesday.

Another House Republican, Ohio’s Dave Joyce, told NBC News earlier Wednesday that he would introduce his own resolution to elect McHenry.

“After two weeks without a Speaker of the House and no clear candidate with 217 votes in the Republican conference, it is time to look at other viable options,” Joyce told NBC in a statement.

“By empowering Patrick McHenry as Speaker Pro Tempore we can take care of our ally Israel until a new Speaker is elected,” Joyce said.

Some centrist Democrats have already endorsed the idea of expanding McHenry’s authorities for 15-day increments at a time.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., has signaled openness about electing McHenry, who was a top GOP negotiator during a partisan clash in May over the nation’s debt limit, as speaker pro tem.

“We continue to say that we’re seeking a bipartisan path forward that’s authentic, genuine, and that we want to agree upon in good faith,” Jeffries said Tuesday night.

CNBC Politics

Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:

The chaos over the speaker’s gavel in the Republican-majority chamber is brewing concerns about the government’s ability to respond to pressing global issues.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday morning, called on his fellow Republicans in the House to elect McHenry so that the U.S. can quickly send wartime aid to Israel.

Scott, who is running for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, said that if he were in the White House right now, he would be urging his party to pick a speaker pro tempore “so that business can be done in the House.”

“Why don’t we get the people’s business done by making Patrick McHenry at least the speaker pro tem, so legislation can move so that the funding apparatus that will be necessary to support Israel has a path forward?” Scott said.

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