On October 3rd, 2023, the House of Representatives removed Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from his position of Speaker of the House, marking the first time in history that a Speaker has been voted out. Eight Republicans led the effort and were joined by the House Democrats. Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) was appointed as Speaker Pro Tempore, temporarily filling the role in order to preside over a new election. Legislating in the House has halted, though, until the new Speaker is in place.
There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, since the House is in uncharted territory. It is unclear how long the election process will take, though leaders have scheduled a vote on Wednesday of this week. There are at least three candidates for the position, and it is unknown how long it will take Representatives to select a new leader. It is also uncertain whether the rules and side deals that Representative McCarthy agreed to in order to secure the Speakership in January will continue to be in effect now that he is no longer in that position.
This pause in House business means that once it’s resolved, there will be even fewer days for Congress to come to a new agreement to fund the government after the Continuing Resolution (CR) expires on November 17th. The Senate plans to try to move a package of three Appropriations bills next week, after resolving some of the holds on the “minibus” package. These bills, which have been stalled since the beginning of September, are the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (Mil-Con); Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD); and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (Ag) appropriations bills. The THUD bill includes the Family Unification Program, which funds housing vouchers for families involved in child welfare and young people transitioning from foster care to independence, and the Ag bill includes key nutrition programs such as WIC and SNAP.
There continues to be stark differences between House and Senate Appropriations bills; we have heard that there are even steeper cuts planned to the House Labor-HHS and Criminal Justice bills, though no new bill text has been released yet.