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There's still no Speaker — but there have been so many votes
Kevin McCarthy failed to become Speaker on the first 11 ballots. Also: Two abortion rulings, and criminal justice questions at the Michigan Supreme Court and in the Colorado Senate.
So, I wanted to focus on some other developments this week, but I have been unable to turn my attention — for the most part — away from the Great House Speaker Impasse of 2023.
At this point, we’re already well into a historical moment. Back in December, I noted that it had been 100 years since the House had not elected a Speaker on the first roll call vote of the new session of Congress.
This is one of those things I do because I like history. In fact, I did it way ahead of time because I figured Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican majority leader and a person who has been in Congress since George W. Bush was in the White House, would figure things out by January. If anything, I thought it might go two votes on principle or something — after one, surely he’d do what was necessary to craft a majority. Right?
Well, as we know now, that is absolutely not the case. On Thursday, we shot right past the 1923 record of nine ballots to pick a Speaker when McCarthy failed to secure the speakership on the ninth ballot.
By the time the House adjourned for the night, McCarthy had lost 11 rounds of balloting for Speaker.
It would be quite some time before we’d make more history with this impasse. In 1859, it took 44 ballots — two months — before freshman lawmaker William Pennington was elected Speaker.
By that mark, McCarthy is only 1/4th of the way there.
There are, however, real consequences of the House Republicans’ inability to agree on a Speaker — including, as Third Way argued on Thursday afternoon, to national security and, after Jan. 13, to committee staff salaries.
For now, we will have wait and see what Friday will bring us in the House.
Law Dork with Chris Geidner is independent, reader-supported legal and political journalism that seeks to hold government and other public officials accountable. Support this reporting by becoming a free or paid subscriber today.
ABORTION RIGHTS: The importance of state constitutions and state supreme courts was on full display Thursday.
First, the South Carolina Supreme Court, in a 3-2 ruling, held that the state’s 6-week abortion ban violates the state’s constitution:
However, the pro-abortion ruling in the South came with an important caveat. As Mark Joseph Stern wrote at Slate:
Meanwhile, the Idaho Supreme Court, in its own 3-2 ruling, held that their state’s abortion bans — including a “Total Abortion Ban” — and a civil liability law are all constitutional under their state’s constitution.
DEMS BEHAVING BADLY: There is news this week from two Dem trifecta states — states where Democrats control the governor’s office and both legislative chambers — that exemplify the ongoing conflicts among Democrats when it comes to the criminal legal system.
First, by way of Joshua Hoe, an extremely disturbing story out of Michigan. Newly re-elected Justice Richard Bernstein publicly criticized his fellow Democrat’s selection of a formerly incarcerated individual as a law clerk, leading to the clerk’s resignation.
Justice Kyra Harris Bolden, who was just appointed to the court by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, hired Pete Martel as one of her clerks. Martel had served time in prison after, as the Detroit News reported, “plead[ing] guilty to armed robbery and assault with intent to do great bodily harm in 1994 after robbing a Genesee County convenience store and shooting at a police officer.” After being paroled in 2008, however, he worked as an advocate for prison reforms and then went to law school.
Bernstein argued that the fact that, nearly 30 years ago, Martel shot at a police officer disqualified him — for life — from working at the court, per the Detroit News.
After Bernstein’s comments to the media, Martel resigned. In a statement, Bolden said that Martel “did not want to be a distraction or in any way divert the court from its important work.”
Read Hoe’s full thread for how — and why — this is so disturbing and counterproductive:
Second, from Alex Burness at Bolts, some Colorado news about how legislative committee assignments can be a key moment for — or for stopping — change. Here’s Daniel Nichanian’s summary:
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