Two of Iowa’s four U.S. House members laid down their marker early in the battle to elect a new House speaker.
U.S. Representatives Ashley Hinson (IA-02) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01) announced on October 5 that they will support current House Majority leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana for the chamber’s top job.
The House cannot conduct normal business until members elect a new speaker, following the 216-210 vote on October 3 to declare the office vacant. As expected, all four Iowa Republicans opposed the effort to remove House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, but the resolution succeeded as eight Republicans joined all Democrats present to vote yes.
Scalise’s main competition appears to be House Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan of Ohio. Others considering the race include Republican Study Committee chair Kevin Hern of Oklahoma. Several House members have vowed to nominate Donald Trump, but the former president told one of his supporters on October 5 that he is endorsing Jordan for speaker.
At this writing, Representatives Zach Nunn (IA-03) and Randy Feenstra (IA-04) have not publicly committed to a candidate for speaker. Iowa’s House members have voted in unison on most important matters this year. In a statement to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Nunn said, “I’m waiting to make a decision until we have the opportunity to hear from everybody running about their vision to take on the D.C. bureaucracy, balance the budget, secure the border, and support the critical programs — like Medicare and Social Security — that Iowans rely on every day.”
“WE NEED A SPEAKER WHO CAN UNITE OUR HISTORICALLY THIN MAJORITY”
Ideologically, little separates the candidates for speaker. Scalise, Jordan, and Hern all hail from the GOP’s conservative wing. All voted against certifying the 2020 electoral college votes (as did McCarthy). Jordan and Hern have been less supportive of military aid to Ukraine than has Scalise. Then again, Iowa’s U.S. House members indicated last week that they may not continue to vote for such funding.
Hinson told reporters in Cedar Rapids on October 5 that she had “a little bit more deliberating that I want to do before I announce my decision publicly.” Later the same morning, her office released a written statement explaining her support for Scalise.
We need a Speaker who will unite our historically thin majority so we can put the drama behind us and help deliver the most conservative legislation possible as we are faced with several looming and important deadlines. Steve Scalise is the right person for the job and has my full support to be our Speaker.
Not only is Steve a principled conservative, he has overcome adversity far beyond the infighting in our Conference right now. He has the grit, strength, and faith to lead us and deliver for the American people.
Steve shared with me his forward-looking vision to unite Republicans, bring conservative spending bills to the Floor, and advance the priorities of Iowans. He loves our country, understands our Conference, and is uniquely positioned to protect and grow our Republican majority.
It’s hard to imagine anyone uniting the fractious GOP caucus, though Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, who brought forward the motion to vacate the speaker’s position, had positive things to say this week about both Scalise and Jordan. Scalise was widely seen as a fallback candidate in the event that McCarthy was unable to be elected speaker in January.
Miller-Meeks also characterized Scalise as a unifier in an October 5 tweet endorsing his bid to become speaker.
Oddly, Miller-Meeks said in a video posted several hours later that she was working in Washington, DC and “interviewing people” seeking the speaker’s position. Without referring to her public endorsement of Scalise, she said that as she considers those hoping to become House speaker, she needs to know where they are on health care reform, prescription drug prices, the Farm Bill, and other agricultural issues such as biofuels.
IOWA MEMBERS HAVE BLASTED MCCARTHY FOES
One obstacle to unifying House Republicans: many are furious that Gaetz and a handful of allies were able to orchestrate the McCarthy debacle.
Hinson is often described as a rising star in the GOP caucus. She landed a seat on the Appropriations Committee during her first term and is a close ally of Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, who is currently number three in House GOP leadership. Stefanik may contend for majority leader (the second-ranking position) in the coming weeks.
Hinson credited McCarthy with building the Republican majority and touted House GOP accomplishments during his tenure as speaker. Hinson said that when she first came to Washington, McCarthy told her, “Separate the signal from the noise.” She then asserted, “The noise is those who are causing chaos for their own personal benefit, while ignoring the needs of their constituents and this country, grinding our work here to a halt.”
Wrapping up her brief remarks, Hinson described the work Republicans need to do “to save our country, for my kids and yours. My colleagues today here have a choice: be a chaos agent or get back to work.” She called on colleagues to support McCarthy “so we can get back to work for the American people.”
Shortly after the House voted to remove McCarthy, Hinson’s office released a written statement:
Republicans had an opportunity to focus all our energy against the disastrous Biden agenda that has resulted in open borders, rampant inflation, and skyrocketing crime. Instead, Matt Gaetz has paralyzed the House and brought our work for the American people to a halt. Hard working Americans are the ones who pay the price for political games like these – not the selfish politicians who play them. I will continue working to end the embarrassing chaos and dysfunction and pursuing solutions to the challenges Iowans are facing each day.
In an eight-minute Facebook live video, recorded on the morning October 4, Hinson again denounced the “chaotic” and “dysfunctional” events of the week, which she described as an “immensely frustrating process.” She said she would be “solutions-oriented” and would focus on funding the federal government in the coming weeks. (The continuing resolution passed last weekend runs out on November 17.)
Miller-Meeks’ frustration was palpable in the statement her office released on October 3.
The motion to vacate the chair delays the House proceedings and as history shows, it diminishes any progress the majority governing body has made thus far. Importantly it risks putting the gavel in the hands of Democrat Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Under Speaker McCarthy’s leadership, House Republicans have passed appropriations bills covering over 70% of discretionary spending and two trillion in spending cuts, passed legislation to give the largest pay raise to service members in two decades and clawed back billions from the Biden Administration’s woke agenda. House Republicans have passed the strongest border security HR 1 to secure our border, stop fentanyl and human trafficking. Under Speaker McCarthy’s leadership, we passed energy legislation HR 2 to lower food and fuel costs for average Americans, passed the Parents Bill of Rights, prohibiting biological boys from participating in girls’ sports, ended the pause in repayment of college loans and put people to work if receiving social benefits. We worked to avoid a government shutdown. But, Matt Gaetz and his minions are single-handedly derailing our progress and eroding our ability to pass appropriation bills, hold committee hearings, investigate the Biden family corruption, issue subpoenas and work to secure the border and reduce crime. Dismantling our leadership ruins our ability to work for the American people and I now see why Matt Gaetz is referred to as Biden’s favorite Republican.
Nunn’s office did not release a statement following the vote to remove McCarthy, but he posted on social media on October 2, “We have just 45 days to pass bills to get spending under control. Wasting even one day voting on a motion to vacate instead of budget cuts is self defeating & DC politics at its worst. I am a NO on the motion to vacate & a YES to getting back to work for Americans.”
To my knowledge, Feenstra has not commented on the embarrassing spectacle on his social media, nor has he issued a news release on the subject. (He has posted about numerous other topics—China buying U.S. farmland, “reckless government spending,” rising home prices, 4-H week—as if nothing unusual were going on in Congress this week.)
Hailing from Iowa’s most conservative House district, Feenstra may be trying to avoid angering the hard-right contingent within the GOP base who wanted McCarthy gone.
UPDATE: Feenstra’s office sent out a remarkable weekly newsletter on October 6 with no reference to the speaker contest or motion to vacate. You’d never guess anything unusual had happened in Washington this week or how Feenstra had voted. Topics covered instead:
- Biden forgave more student debt
- criticism of Biden’s trade policy
- thanking Iowa law enforcement
- Feenstra’s meeting with the CEO of a major health system
- Feenstra’s floor remarks honoring a slain police officer
- support for U.S. energy production
- national 4-H week
I forgot to include this statement Nunn’s office released to other news media:
Solving the problems facing our country demands thoughtful, pragmatic, and determined leadership. This stunt is the opposite: DC politics at its worst, repeatedly obstructing the real work that must get done to secure our Southern Border and cut wasteful spending. America has had enough of politicians who say one thing when the TV cameras are rolling but do the exact opposite in reality. For the good of the country, it’s time to stop the distractions, quit bloviating, and get back to work.
Appendix 1: Full text of October 4 “Dear Colleague” letter from Steve Scalise:
We all came here to save this country from being taken down a dangerous path of destruction. We don’t sacrifice time with our families to come to Washington to fight over the small things – we are here because we care about our children’s futures and the kind of country they will grow up in. Under the failed leadership of President Biden, our country is being pushed to the brink. Americans cannot afford life’s daily expenses, and for many the American Dream is getting further out of reach. Our debt will cripple our grandchildren. Our border is wide open and must be secured. Our energy supply is being willingly depleted. Crime is surging, our cities are being destroyed, and drugs are flowing into our communities from Biden’s open border. Every state is now a border state, with millions of unvetted illegal immigrants being shipped across the country, robbing social services meant for hard-working citizens. The rule of law is in doubt; the Justice Department is weaponized to target political enemies and shield allies. Our standing around the world is in question, and there is no accountability for the decisions that allowed 13 of our soldiers to be killed in the failed surrender of Afghanistan.
I firmly believe this Conference is a family. When I was shot in 2017, it was Members of this Conference who saved my life on that field. When I made it to the hospital and my family was told my chances of surviving were low, it was the prayers from all of you that carried us through. When I was in the hospital for nearly 15 weeks, it was the possibility of getting back to work with all of you that kept me motivated to get better. During that time, I was often asked why after nearly losing my life because of this job I would want to go back. But it was never a question for me: I love this country, and I believe we were sent here to come together and solve the immense challenges we face. As I face new challenges, I feel even more strongly about that today. I know the coming weeks ahead will be some of the most arduous times we will face together, but this Conference is worth fighting for – we cannot lose sight of our shared mission. Now, more than ever, we must mend the deep wounds that exist within our Conference and focus on our objectives so we can get back to work for the millions of people who are counting on us.
It is with that sense of responsibility and purpose that I am seeking the Conference’s nomination for Speaker of the House.
You know my leadership style I’ve displayed as your Majority Leader and Whip.
I have a proven track record of bringing together the diverse array of viewpoints within our Conference to build consensus where others thought it impossible.
When I ran to be your Majority Leader, I made a commitment to turn our conservative agenda into legislative action, facilitate a legislative process built on regular order and Member input so all Members and their constituents have a voice in the House of Representatives, and to hold the Biden Administration accountable.
We moved our top agenda items through the House based on those three commitments. We ran an efficient, collaborative, and successful process involving multiple committees of jurisdiction to pass H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, which would lower costs, lower inflation, and make America energy independent once again. When we ran into challenges on our border package, we pressed pause on that committee process to bring in dozens of Members, both on and off committee, to iron out our differences on border and immigration policy. The result of that work was H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act, the most conservative border bill the House has ever passed. And we delivered on our commitment to ensure that parents have a say in their children’s education through the passage of H.R. 5, the Parents Bill of Rights.
While we have made tremendous progress so far this Congress and have demonstrated that we can unite against failing liberal policies, more work needs to be done. We have an extremely talented Conference, and we all need to come together and pull in the same direction to get the country back on the right track.
Now is not the time to slow down. We are conducting critical oversight of a corrupt administration. We are in the midst of considering individual appropriations bills in an open and transparent process, with Members from across the Conference offering amendments to ensure their constituents and districts are represented. We laid out an aggressive schedule to complete floor consideration of all 12 appropriations bills to go into Senate negotiations with the strongest hand possible, and we cannot afford to lose any more time achieving that goal.
Our strength as a Conference comes from our unity, and we have seen when we unite as a Conference, we can deliver wins for the American people. Now we need to take those unified positions and work to extract conservative wins from the Democrat Senate and White House by leveraging upcoming deadlines. While we need to be realistic about what can be achieved, if we stay united, we can preserve leverage for the House to secure tangible wins in our impending policy fights. The task before us is not without its challenges, but I believe in this Conference and our ability to come together and achieve great things.
God already gave me another chance at life. I believe we were all put here for a purpose. This next chapter won’t be easy, but I know what it takes to fight and I am prepared for the battles that lie ahead. I humbly ask you for your support on this mission to be your Speaker of the House.
Appendix 2: Full text of October 4 “Dear Colleague” letter from Jim Jordan
The American people have entrusted us to lead in the House of Representatives. Our majority has had success in the first nine months of the 118th Congress. We should be proud of what we have achieved together in these divided times.
But our work is not done. Far-left progressive policies are destroying our communities, our security, and our future. We have soaring crime across the country. We have an administration with open-border policies that have caused chaos and left our country vulnerable. We’ve seen federal agencies turned on the American people silencing speech online, targeting parents at school board meetings, and flagging pro-life Catholics as potential threats and we’ve witnessed blatant double standards in federal law enforcement. We continue to spend too much money and Americans are suffering under President Biden’s economy.
The Republican majority must continue to address the issues that matter to the American people. We must address rising crime in major cities and reject soft-on-crime, pro-criminal policies. We must get our fiscal house in order and reduce spending so that we can leave more to the next generation than a crushing deficit. We must do our constitutional oversight of the federal bureaucracy to ensure they work for the American people-not the other way around. And we must continue working to secure the border and protect our national security.
We agreed at the beginning of the Congress that there are three fundamental things the House must do: pass the bills that need to be passed, do the oversight, and rein in the spending. Working with Chairman Green and our leadership, I helped to deliver the most significant legislative accomplishment this Congress: the strongest immigration and border enforcement bill ever. With other committee chairs and the members of the Judiciary Committee, I am doing the oversight and holding the Administration accountable. And I have been among the leaders in pushing for fiscal discipline my entire career.
We are at a critical crossroad in our nation’s history. Now is the time for our Republican conference to come together to keep our promises to Americans. The problems we face are challenging, but they are not insurmountable. We can focus on the changes that improve the country and unite us in offering real solutions. But no matter what we do, we must do it together as a conference. I respectfully ask for your support for Speaker of the House of Representatives.”