House Republicans’ failure to elect a speaker Tuesday after several rounds of voting isn’t just denying the GOP a leader, it’s slowing much of the chamber’s operation.
Traditionally, the position is filled on the first day of a new Congress, followed by the swearing in of new members, but with the fight on the floor until Wednesday, elected members have yet to take the oath of office.
Incoming lawmakers arrived on the floor Tuesday with their families in tow, hoping to pose for a photo and begin their first day as lawmakers, but instead were greeted with a wait of several hours as the election of the speaker went to several rounds of voting: the first time that happens in 100 years.
Each new Congress must pass a new set of House rules, so without a speaker to oversee the passage of those rules, there technically won’t be one.
Without a package of House rules passed before the close of business on Jan. 13, committees will not be able to pay staff, according to a letter sent last week by the House Committee on Administrative Affairs, which was first reported by Politico and obtained by CNN.
The same memo warned that student loan payments for committee staff would not be disbursed if a rulemaking package was not adopted by mid-January.
It’s just one of many ways a battle over the next speaker could cripple the House and the Republican majority from operating efficiently in its early days with some of the harshest penalties falling on rank-and-file employees.
For committees whose chairs are not known, they will be headed by, among others, the most senior Republican on the committee who also served on the panel in the last Congress, according to the letter sent last week.
But without fully functioning committees to amend and approve bills before they come to a vote, there will be little legislature. That means Republicans would also have to wait before tackling some of their most pressing priorities, including investigations into President Joe Biden’s administration and family.
Outside of the speaker’s role effectively running the House, they are also in the line of succession for the presidency, raising questions about what happens if there is no one in the position who is second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
The president pro tempore of the Senate is third in line. Sen. Patty Murray was elected to the post on Tuesday, making the Washington Democrat the first woman to hold the position.