Any other week, a rare, mid-session speaker election might be the only news of note in the House, but a confluence of legislative deadlines and a corresponding race for the Ways and Means gavel make for a hectic atmosphere in Speaker John A. Boehner’s final week in Congress.
Here are five things to watch over four pivotal legislative business days in the House: 1. The speaker’s race. After weeks of suspenseful twists and turns, Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., announced on Oct. 22 he is answering the call of his colleagues : He will give up his “dream job” as Ways and Means chairman to run for speaker and lead the fractured GOP conference. He made his candidacy conditional on securing support from three major factions and on members agreeing to accept his demand of no travel on weekends. After announcing Sunday that David Hoppe would be named chief of staff in the speaker’s office, Ryan heads into Wednesday’s secret-ballot nominating election expected to prevail. Still, his hold on the conference is fragile enough to make Thursday’s roll call vote on the House floor a must-see event.
2. The committee chairmanship. Ryan’s colleagues began to jockey for the top spot on Ways and Means before he’d made his speaker candidacy official. Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi, who is closely allied with leadership and the committee’s fifth-most senior Republican, announced his bid on Twitter shortly after Ryan announced his intentions for speaker. He’s expected to face Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the third-most senior Republican on the panel, who missed his chance at the gavel for the 114th Congress in deference to Ryan. A question mark is the committee’s No. 4 Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who might want to lead the powerful tax-writing panel but is already chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.
3. The discharge petition. The last time a discharge petition gambit worked was in 1992, on a campaign finance overhaul. It’s poised to work again this week to revive the lapsed Export-Import Bank. Earlier this month, a band of moderate House Republicans finally grew tired of conservatives stonewalling measures to reopen the expired agency, so they took steps to pursue a procedural maneuver to force a floor vote on any bill, within a certain number of days, provided at least 218 members sign off in support. Republican supporters joined with nearly ever Democrat to sign the discharge petition to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank, and now, starting Monday, House Republican leaders will have little choice but to hold a vote.
4. The debt limit. Boehner said he wanted to “clean the barn” before his retirement date of Oct. 30; at the top of the list is a debt ceiling increase, which needs to happen before Nov. 3. In recent years, passing legislation to extend the federal government’s borrowing authority has been tenuous, with Democrats calling for a “clean” fix and Republicans demanding concessions in exchange for preventing a financial default. At one point Boehner might have feared repercussions from his right flank for facilitating passage of a debt ceiling bill without conservative policy riders, but he has the advantage on his way out the door. He faces no blowback for relying on Democratic votes to get legislation signed into law.
5. The final week. With his pet project, a D.C. school voucher program, already approved , the Ohio Republican will spend his last days in the House helping with the transfer of power and tying up some loose ends of legislative business. An admitted creature of habit, Boehner will also continue with his rituals, such as his early morning walks to the local Starbucks and to Pete’s Diner for breakfast. His office will still smell of fresh tobacco and his eyes will fill with tears at every mention of a child in need.
Boehner has served in Congress since 1991. In many ways, his final days will be marked less by his official actions than by the aspects of Capitol Hill life to which he’s left an indelible mark.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.
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