Dysfunction and Disorder

House GOP Deadlocked, Santos Indicted, Solidarity with Israel

Good morning from Washington, D.C. where the House of Representatives remains without a leader in the midst of international upheaval and with only 33 days remaining until government funding runs out on November 17th.

The dysfunction and disorder of the House Republican Caucus remains on full display. So far, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA.) won the first vote narrowly defeating Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) by a margin of 113-99 to be nominated as speaker. However, in the midst of GOP tribalism, as well as a misstep by Team Scalise on a motion to change the rules, ensured he lacked the votes from his own party to reach the 217 threshold in a full floor vote and Scalise withdrew. Speaking to his colleagues, Scalise offered, “There’s some folks that really need to look in the mirror over the next couple of days and decide: Are we going to get back on track, or are they going to try to pursue their own agenda?”

“There’s some folks that really need to look in the mirror over the next couple of days and decide: Are we going to get back on track, or are they going to try to pursue their own agenda?”

Rep. Steve Scalise

That left Representative Jim Jordan alone standing. However, Jordan’s record as a conservative firebrand—who has never sponsored a bill that passed the House and carries the endorsement of former President Donald Trump—makes him a difficult vote for many Republicans, especially those in swing districts. As a result, Jordan’s candidacy already appears to be in trouble. Late Friday afternoon, Jordan barely edged out Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), 124-81, in a new vote to be the nominee. Seven members voted for different candidates and one member voted present. This even though Scott joined the race only hours before the vote, did not campaign, and publicly declared he did not want to be speaker. Scott’s 81 votes show the strength of the conference’s anti-Jordan sentiment.

Next, the Republicans held a “validation vote” for Jordan’s support on the floor. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy insisted Republicans needed to get behind Jordan for speaker and he engineered the test in order to demonstrate that Jordan’s support was higher than the disastrous 124 total in the previous tally. Despite the former Speaker’s exhortations, 55 Republicans voted against him. One voted present. An effort to force an open roll-call vote, rather than the secret ballot, to demonstrate which members were opposed also failed. Republicans headed home for the weekend.

Jordan and his allies worked the phones this weekend, but he is a remarkable 62 votes short of the elusive 217 threshold — a nearly insurmountable deficit to overcome. Certainly some, even many, of those votes will come Jordan’s way, but Republicans appear nowhere closer to electing the next Speaker than they were when the last week started.

Today, there are rumors that Republicans on the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees are working to block Jordan from becoming speaker, that means roughly 20 certain no votes. If that holds, there’s no chance Jordan can get the votes.

On the other hand, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Sunday, “There are informal conversations that have been underway. When we get back to Washington tomorrow, it’s important to begin to formalize those discussions.”

Republicans have scheduled a vote for Tuesday noontime and we will see! The safe money is on no deal again this week.

Rep. Scott, Jordan’s erstwhile challenger, was asked if he believes he can get to 217 votes and replied, “I don’t think anyone can get 217 votes.” Oh boy.

Meanwhile, one of the 217--Rep. George Santos--was again indicted by federal prosecutors. This time in a 23-count superseding indictment accusing the Congressman of conspiracy, wire fraud, making false statements, falsification of records, aggravated identity theft, and credit card fraud. Prosecutors allege that Santos charged the credit cards of his contributors to inflate his personal and campaign accounts, totaling over $40,000. The indictment also alleges that Santos reported a $500,000 personal loan to his campaign to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in an effort to show party officials he was a serious candidate. In reality, Santos did not give any of his own money to the campaign and had less than $8,000 in his bank account at the time of the purported loan.

Santos continues to resist calls to resign, instead placing the blame on his campaign staff and treasurer saying, “I didn't even know what the hell the FEC was. To this date, I don't know what their system looks like, other than going on Google. The buck stops with me is an exaggerated term, especially when you're a candidate, right?" he said. "I'm not an experienced politician.” A group of Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY.) introduced a resolution to expel Santos from Congress, to which he replied: “They can try to expel me, but I pity the fools that go ahead and do that.” If convicted, Santos faces decades in prison.

On Friday, he was involved in a bizarre incident in the Longworth House Office Building where, while carrying an unidentified baby, Santos got into an altercation with an anti-Israel protester who was subsequently arrested and identified as an employee of former Vice-President Al Gore’s climate non-profit.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., announced his third-party candidacy for president in Philadelphia. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

In Presidential campaign news, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. announced that he would forego his campaign for the Democratic nomination, and would instead run as an Independent. Kennedy, liberal on many social issues, has gained popularity among many Republicans for his anti-vaccines rhetoric and criticism of public health measures. After being boosted by Republicans who enjoyed Kennedy needling President Joe Biden, there is now concerns from the RNC that Kennedy he could pull support from the eventual Republican nominee. In a statement, the RNC said, “He's not even close to an ‘independent’. In fact, there is very little daylight between RFK Jr. and a typical Democrat politician.” The Biden campaign is surely weary of any third-party candidate given that the 2020 election was decided by a small number of votes in a few key swing states and 2024 will likely follow that same trajectory. Note the similar Democratic concern about Cornell West and “No Labels.”

In New York, the State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division ruled last week that the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government may continue its work while the Court considers their appeal. Certainly an absolute joy for those of us who file regular reports with the Commission! Last month, a State Supreme Court Judge ruled against the Commission, rendering the ethics body virtually powerless. This week’s ruling is a victory for the Commission which can now continue regulating lobbying activity while they await a final determination of their fate. The ruling does, however, prevent the Commission from counting on any work relating to the investigation of former Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In another high-profile legal case, State Court of Appeals Justice Caitlin Halligan has recused herself from upcoming arguments in the redistricting case that may decide New York’s Congressional Districts for the rest of the decade. Halligan, who was recently appointed by Governor Hochul said, “I wish to avoid any potential appearance of impropriety because I have or had a close professional or personal relationship with a party or lawyer involved in this matter” but did not elaborate any further. In 2022, the Court of Appeals found by a 4-3 margin that the Democratic-controlled State Legislature failed to properly draw electoral maps and ordered a Special Master to come up with new ones. Since then, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore has left the bench with Judge Rowan Wilson ascending to Chief Judge and Halligan filling Wilson’s spot. Many legal observers have predicted Halligan, a Democrat, would rule with the liberal justices resulting in a 4-3 decision in favor of Democrats. Now, Chief Judge Wilson has temporarily elevated an Appellate Court Justice, Diane Renwick, to hear the case.

New York’s Public Service Commission has rejected a request by offshore wind and onshore renewable energy providers for increased subsidies to complete planned projects. The proposed increases would have totaled $12 billion and would nearly double the costs for ratepayers on existing contracts. Renewable energy providers and climate activists have argued that without these subsidies, New York will not be able to meet the state’s climate goals which include 70% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Fred Zalcman, Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance said of the decision, “It deals a potentially fatal blow to the progress these projects have made to localize clean energy manufacturing, reinvigorate New York’s ports and harbors, train and deploy New York’s skilled union workers, and revitalize environmental justice communities.” PSC Chair Rory Christian pushed back on that notion, saying the state made agreements with renewable energy providers and they expect them to abide by those commitments, regardless of the subsidy increase request. To the developers: “We have a deal,” Christian said. “We expect all developers, no matter how large, to abide by their commitments.”

“It deals a potentially fatal blow to the progress these projects have made to localize clean energy manufacturing, reinvigorate New York’s ports and harbors, train and deploy New York’s skilled union workers, and revitalize environmental justice communities.”

Fred Zalcman, Director of the New York Offshore Wind Alliance

In the wake of last weekend’s brutal terrorist attacks in Israel, many Democratic New York politicians are reexamining their relationship with the once-powerful Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) after the group promoted a pro-Palestine rally that soon transformed into an open display of antisemitism in Times Square. Prominent members such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have denounced the group’s support of the rally and Rep. Jamaal Bowman has reportedly let his membership lapse. David Greenfield, a former NYC Council member who now serves as the CEO of the Jewish non-profit group the Met Council said, “The core membership of the DSA has not shown any sympathy at all for innocent victims of Hamas’ barbaric terrorism, where the adults in the room have realized that that’s not a viable path forward for any political party in the United States.”

In a display of global solidarity, President Biden, President Macron of France, Chancellor Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Meloni of Italy, and Prime Minister Sunak of the United Kingdom issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for Israel and unequivocally condemning those responsible.

In the midst of chaos and drama and sheer despair in the world, here is a small reminder that sometimes good can come from the bad.

© Lian Law/Washington Post Illustration; iStock; F. Jimenez/NPS Photo


We have a winner of the 2023 Fat Bear Week! The final saw two moms going head-to-head, with Grazer soundly defeating Chunk by more than 85,000 votes.

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Democratic candidate for Syracuse City Auditor, Alex Marion joins our Alec Lewis ‘From the Lobby with Jack O’Donnell’ to talk:

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New to the NYS Senate

State Senator Mark Walczyk served two terms in the NYS Assembly before being elected to represent the Senate’s 49th District, which encompasses Fulton, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, parts of Herkimer, Oswego and St. Lawrence Counties.

Senator Walczyk began his career in public service after graduating from the University of Albany, when he joined the staff of State Senator Patty Ritchie in 2011. In 2015, Senator Walczyk was elected to the Watertown City Council.

Senator Walczyk is the Ranker on the Elections and the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks, and Recreation Committees. He is also a member of the Senate Committees on Agriculture, Cities 2, Energy and Telecommunications, and Internet Technology, as well as the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources.

Senator Walczyk lives in Watertown with his wife and two children.

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