With House Republicans still struggling to pick a new speaker, some Democrats have begun reaching out about the possibility of cutting a bipartisan deal to back a compromise candidate, according to one key centrist lawmaker.
But it might take a few more GOP faceplants before talks actually get serious.
“What I’m hearing from my Republican colleagues is they need to quote unquote, hit rock bottom first, and so I think that could come today or over the weekend,” Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., told Semafor. I’m making myself available for these conversations, as are many of my colleagues in the Democratic caucus — reaching out to Republican friends and counterparts to open this dialogue.”
On Friday afternoon, Republicans nominated Rep. Jim Jordan to be speaker in a vote that left his final path towards helming House Republicans looking shaky at best. The conservative favorite beat out a token opponent, Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., by a tally of 124 to 81. The comparatively little known Scott had entered the race as a last-minute surprise on Friday in what many interpreted as a protest candidacy. In a second secret ballot, only 155 lawmakers said they would support Jordan in a vote before the full House floor, far short of the 217 needed for a win.
Earlier this week, Republicans nominated Rep. Steve Scalise, who pulled his candidacy a day later once it became clear he couldn’t muster enough support among Republicans and clear a simple majority before the full House.
The turmoil has led several Republicans to suggest that their party might need to work out a speaker deal with Democrats given their party’s inability to agree on a candidate. But Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers, R-Ala. told Bloomberg Democrats would need to start discussions by offering a list of demands. “We’re willing to work with them, but they gotta tell us what they need.”
Kuster, who leads the moderate New Democrat Coalition, emphasized that any decision about a bipartisan speaker deal would have to be approved by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. “What we’ve been asked is to open lines of communication with our Republican colleagues. But the end of the day, it is speaker Jeffries that will ultimately negotiate on our behalf and when he is satisfied, we will be satisfied,” she said, inadvertently referring to the Democratic leader as the House speaker.
Kuster told Semafor discussions about what concessions Democrats would want in a deal are still “ongoing.” But she said Jeffries and others have brought up the idea of reversing rule changes that have made House Republicans “ungovernable,” such as the ability of a single lawmaker to file a motion to remove the speaker. Other potential Democratic demands could include bringing a Ukraine aid package to the floor for a vote and sticking to the budget caps outlined in this year’s debt ceiling agreement.