House Republicans push unity ‘pledge’ to guarantee a speaker

A majority of the House Republicans vying for the speakership signed a pledge Saturday aimed at saving the GOP’s next pick from the vote-counting trap that sank Reps. Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan’s bids.

Seven lawmakers have launched campaigns for the gavel ahead of a Sunday deadline, as House Republicans scramble — yet again — to select their new speaker, nearly three weeks after Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the top post. And five of the announced candidates have committed in writing to a plot to ensure the next speaker-designate can rally 217 votes on the floor.

The device: A simple two-paragraph pledge, spearheaded by Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.), to vote “yea” on the floor for whoever wins the House Republican conference’s backing in the initial secret-ballot election scheduled for Tuesday. To pick up more commitments, Flood is organizing a bloc of Republicans to withhold support from candidates unless they press their backers to sign the pledge.

Support for the strategy built rapidly Saturday, with signatures from speakership candidates Reps. Austin Scott (Ga.), Mike Johnson (La.), Pete Sessions (Texas), Jack Bergman (Mich.) and Kevin Hern (Okla.), chair of the Republican Study Committee.

Reps. Byron Donalds (Fla.) and Majority Whip Tom Emmer (Minn.) are the only announced candidates who have not yet indicated support for the pledge. And allies of the conservative House Freedom Caucus are urging opposition.

Russ Vought, who was White House budget director under former president Donald Trump, called it “a ridiculous letter” and “cartel government away from the floor.”

Lawmakers have until Sunday at noon to make their candidacy official before a Monday night candidate forum and a GOP Conference vote Tuesday morning.

In a Saturday morning post, Emmer vowed to “always be honest and direct” with every Republican lawmaker and to “never make a promise I cannot fulfill.”

“Our conference remains at a crossroads and the deck is stacked against us,” Emmer warned.

Johnson also issued a lengthy dear colleague letter Saturday, listing his priorities if elected, including rebuilding trust and engaging more individual lawmakers in the policymaking process.

“It is incumbent upon us now to decide upon a consensus candidate who can serve as a trusted caretaker and a good steward of the gavel,” Johnson wrote. “We must govern well and expand our majority next year.”

House Republicans’ razor-thin majority has magnified and empowered the small group of lawmakers who ousted McCarthy.

Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry said he isn’t worried about a big candidate pool making it harder to settle on one pick. “We have a process, we have conference rules,” he said.

“Monday we are going to come back and start over,” Majority Leader Steve Scalise said Friday.

The new crop of contenders are spending the weekend working the phones and recruiting allies to do the same as they build their platform for the speakership. It’s the same way Jordan spent last weekend.

With McCarthy, Scalise and Jordan all felled by divisions within the conference, many House Republicans have voiced concern that none of the new candidates can get the 217 votes needed to secure the gavel without a major repositioning within the House GOP.

“The space and time for a reset is, I think, an important thing for House Republicans,” McHenry said Friday, explaining why he thought the weekend break in the process was necessary.

McHenry promised that the House will hold a floor vote once the Republican conference settles on its next speaker candidate, the third in as many weeks. He did not, however, ask for the conference to advance a resolution to empower him to push forward legislation if the House falls short once again to elect a speaker.

Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

The GOP is wary of another fiasco on the House floor.  

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