NotedDC

Five key figures from the Speaker fight

Newly minted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) wasn’t the only Washington figure to draw attention in the first week of the new Congress.

Several House members saw their profiles rise as a result of the four-day, 15-round Speakership election.

Here are five key figures who garnered attention during the Speaker battle:

Matt Gaetz

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) speaks with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) speaks with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) during the first day of the 118th session of Congress on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. (Greg Nash)

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) showed a unique ability to command attention during the prolonged Speaker battle.

Gaetz, one of the last anti-McCarthy members to change his vote, helped lead a prominent bloc of GOP members who resisted the California Republican’s bid.

At one point, Gaetz remarked on Fox News, “We’re at the stage right now where I’m running out of stuff to ask for.”

On the 14th round of voting, Gaetz voted “present” — leaving McCarthy one vote short of the Speakership and requiring a 15th round.

Between the final rounds of voting, Gaetz had a tense exchange with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), during which Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) held Rogers back. 

Gaetz also garnered attention last week for casting a vote for former President Trump for Speaker and making an impassioned speech nominating Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) — after Jordan nominated McCarthy. Jordan, who received several Speaker votes from McCarthy’s opponents, voted for McCarthy each round. 

Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Scott Perry (Pa.) and Chip Roy (Texas) were also among the group of around 20 GOP members who repeatedly voted against McCarthy throughout the week.

Patrick McHenry

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.)

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) leaves a closed-door House Republican conference meeting on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. (Greg Nash)

The North Carolina GOP congressman featured prominently in coverage leading up to the vote surrounding potential Speaker alternatives should McCarthy’s bid fail.

McHenry, a top McCarthy ally, supported the California Republican each round and was a central figure in the final rounds of voting Friday, nominating McCarthy on the penultimate round and sitting and talking with Gaetz during the roll call.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.), another frequently discussed potential Speaker alternative, also supported McCarthy each round.  

McHenry is the new chair of the House Financial Services Committee and a regional representative on the Steering Committee.  

Hakeem Jeffries

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is seen during a vote for Speaker on the first day of the 118th session of Congress on Tuesday, January 3, 2023. (Greg Nash)

Democrats were unanimous in their Speaker votes for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) on all 15 ballots. He received 212 votes on 14 of 15 ballots, with only Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) absent from the 12th vote due to a surgery. Democrats haven’t all voted the same way for Speaker since 2009.

Jeffries has used the event to frame Democrats as unified and Republicans as divided. (He also took the opportunity to deliver an astonishingly alliterative alphabetical speech.) 

Some other Democrats deserving mention: Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) practiced the subtle art of catching up on some reading in the chamber with a not-so-subtly-titled book. And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was seen talking with Gosar, with whom she’s had a contentious relationship.

Marjorie Taylor Greene

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) speaks to a reporter after a closed-door House Republican conference meeting on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. (Greg Nash)

A well-known member already, the Georgia Republican’s profile took on another dimension amid the Speaker fight as she repeatedly pitched McCarthy’s bid to her colleagues (she also snapped a selfie with him as he clinched the Speakership).

A widely circulated photo shows Greene trying to hand her phone with a call from “DT” to Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.), one of the last to change his anti-McCarthy vote to “present” to pave his path. Greene told The Hill that the call was from Trump.

The Hill’s Emily Brooks reported on the budding cooperative relationship between McCarthy and Greene last September. 

Byron Donalds

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), first elected in 2020, initially got attention last week after switching his vote away from McCarthy on the third round. On the fourth round, 20 Republicans (including Donalds) voted for the Florida Republican for Speaker.

Donalds challenged Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) for conference chair in November, losing 144-74. 

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.)

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) speaks to reporters as he arrives for a House Republican Leadership Forum for the 118th Congress on Monday, November 14, 2022. (Greg Nash)


This is NotedDC, looking at the politics, policy and people behind the stories in Washington. We’re Amée LaTour and Liz Crisp.

BRIEFLY

  • Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) is running for Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) Senate seat in 2024.
  • After yet another drawing without a winner, the Mega Millions jackpot has reached an estimated $1.1 billion ahead of Tuesday’s drawing.
  • Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani has been subpoenaed in connection with a probe into fundraising efforts following the 2020 election.

Inside the House during the Speaker election

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
(Greg Nash, The Hill)

We caught up with The Hill’s House whisperer Emily Brooks to get the scoop on what you didn’t see in the House Speaker fight.

You can follow Emily on Twitter here and see her work on The Hill’s website here.

——

NotedDC: What is one thing people should know about the new House? 

Emily Brooks: There will be major spending fights and gridlock in Washington if Republicans stick to the hardline budgetary and tactical agreements struck between McCarthy and his detractors during the Speaker fight. 

They aspire to pass all 12 regular appropriations bills on time — which Congress hasn’t done since 1997 and has happened only four times total since the current system was implemented — and reject other Senate deals. And they want to play hardball with the debt limit in order to get concessions on spending cuts. There could be a lot of nervousness from Wall Street and investors if the debt limit fight gets down to the wire. 

Noted: During the whole House Speaker race was there anything that stood out to you in the chamber that people on the outside might not have seen? 

EB: First off, I’m so glad the public got to see so much more of what happens in the House chamber during important moments due to C-SPAN cameras having a rare window of access before there was an official Speaker. 

Here is one thing that the cameras can’t capture: The smell of cigars, booze and clothes that people have been wearing for nearly 20 hours on the House floor during Friday’s late-night drama, as a few members described to me. 

On Friday evening, it felt like the whole chamber collectively holding their breaths. Some of the people in the House gallery were literally sitting on the edge of their seats. It’s rare to see uncertainty on the House floor in general, let alone all the twists and turns that night! 

Noted: Who do you think emerged as the stand-outs/stars in the Speaker race — who got a profile boost?

EB: Rep. Chip Roy (Texas) and Scott Perry (Pa.) were instrumental on the hardline conservative side in negotiating an agreement that flipped 14 holdouts to support McCarthy. The week also showcased the skill of McCarthy allies Patrick McHenry (N.C), Garret Graves (La.) and French Hill (Ark.) in negotiating the deal. 

The freshman GOP members who opposed McCarthy — Reps. Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), Andy Ogles (Tenn.), Keith Self (Texas), Josh Brecheen (Okla.) and Eli Crane (Ariz.) — are also starting off their Congressional careers being defined by their opposition. 

Noted: Did the Speaker race give us any insight into who the emerging leaders in the House are? 

EB: Aside from elected leadership, I think it showed that McHenry, Graves and Hill could be important to help McCarthy get certain priorities and legislation across the finish line if there are sticking points. And also showed that new House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) — who held the negotiations in his office all last week — will have a tough but important job in making sure the House GOP passes key legislation with its slim majority. 

Behind C-SPAN’s time in the spotlight 

House Chamber
(Greg Nash, The Hill)

For many Americans, C-SPAN became must-see TV last week as Republicans grappled over more than a dozen rounds of voting for who would become the new Speaker of the GOP-controlled House. 

Whether highlighting real-time tension between eventual Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Republican holdouts, showing controversial Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) saddling up next to new colleagues or Democrats’ efforts to mock the prolonged vote series, C-SPAN’s cameras caught it all.

C-SPAN, the collaborative that started even before CNN and ESPN, trended on Twitter much of the week — offering glimpses rarely seen by people who don’t have a seat in the chamber. Because a Speaker had not been elected and the House had not voted on its rules package, the network was able to operate more freely.

The House has since returned to normal government feeds, but the unique insight that C-SPAN was able to offer has won bipartisan praise — from Republicans like Rep. Chip Roy (Texas) and Democrats like Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.), who is now filing legislation to reinstate the C-SPAN coverage. 

Pocan called C-SPAN’s free range during the lengthy fight over the House Speaker’s election “worthy of an Oscar.” 

Unlike traditional networks, C-SPAN doesn’t participate in the ratings contests, so it’s unclear exactly how many people tuned in, but it’s safe to say it was a healthy number particularly in D.C.

“We don’t really get into the numbers games with what our digital properties do,” C-SPAN Vice President of Communications and Affiliate Relations Peter Kiley told NotedDC. “We want to put on what’s the most important public policy every day, not what’s going to generate the most people.”

In the past, the House Speaker has had the option to limit cameras mostly to straight-forward views of the chamber or tighter shots focused on individual members who were addressing the chamber.

“One feature of the new Congress that made this debate so compelling was the fact that cameras recording the U.S. House of Representatives were free to broadcast the full Chamber during votes and debate, and not merely the rostrum, well and members recognized to speak,” Pocan wrote in a letter to colleagues. 

C-SPAN’s cameras caught a number of dramatic scenes in real time and video clips went viral on Twitter and prompted popular parodies.  

“We’re still talking internally about if we’re going to make an ask to the speaker or not,” Kiley said of the network’s plans to pursue continued access. “People connected with us, either by downloading (the app) or joining us on social media platform — That’s where we can reach this whole new group of people.” 


WHAT WE’RE READING

  • As legal bills mount, it’s come to light that Florida paid about $35,000 per person in its controversial plot to send migrants to Martha’s Vineyard (The Tallahassee Democrat
  • Dr. Dre slams use of ‘Still D.R.E.’ by ‘divisive and hateful’ Marjorie Taylor Greene (The Hill)
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Is Polling Well Against Trump — As Long As No One Else Runs (FiveThirtyEight

NUMBER TO KNOW

6

Days until Martin Luther King Jr. Day. After a busy start to the year, Congress will be on a break to mark the occasion. 

ONE MORE THING

Lawmakers get their own bobbleheads

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum has marked the start of the year with new bobbleheads honoring former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.).

  • Cheney was the vice chair of the House panel that investigated the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Her bid for reelection last year was ultimately tanked after former President Trump backed her opponent.
  • “We think this bobblehead will be a great way to commemorate Congresswoman Cheney’s key role in the investigation of the events that took place on Jan. 6, 2021,” National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Phil Sklar said in a statement. 

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum is located in Milwaukee and also sells bobbleheads of notable figures.

Fetterman, who was Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor before he was elected to the Senate, is known for wearing sweatshirts and shorts, and his honorary bobblehead stays true to that. 

“This bobblehead is sure to be a must-have for his supporters and collectors of political bobbleheads,” Sklar said. 

Sklar said Porter was picked to be honored because of her viral popularity from using her whiteboard to break down topics in committees. 

“After going viral on social media thanks to her signature whiteboard, Rep. Porter has become well known and we have received a lot of requests for a Katie Porter bobblehead,” he said. 

Thanks for reading! Please consider signing up for more newsletters from The Hill. We’ll see you tomorrow!

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Byron Donalds Donald Trump Hakeem Jeffries Hakeem Jeffries Henry Cuellar Jim Jordan Katie Porter Lauren Boebert Marjorie Taylor Greene Marjorie Taylor Greene Matt Gaetz Matt Gaetz Mike Rogers Patrick McHenry Paul Gosar

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