Speaker stalemate leaves Oregon’s new congresswomen in limbo
(Oregon Capital Chronicle) During the stalemate over the U.S. House’s speaker selection, the 435 members of Congress, including Oregon’s three newly elected congresswomen, have been in a state of limbo.
Oregon’s new U.S. representatives, Lori Chavez-DeRemer, Val Hoyle and Andrea Salinas, had yet to be sworn in by Friday evening, along with other new members of the chamber. They can’t be until the House elects a presiding officer – perhaps on a record 14th ballot expected late Friday night.
They have new offices and some staff – who may or may not get paid – but they haven’t been able to introduce bills, help constituents or even find out what committees they’ll be on until they’re officially members of Congress.
“I’ve been telling folks on the House floor, different members, my interest in serving my community through the ag committee, but I don’t know if I’ll be on the committee and that part feels very paralyzing,” Salinas told the Capital Chronicle. “And it’s been completely frustrating.”
Salinas’ husband and daughter, a high school senior, flew to D.C. to see her sworn in on Tuesday, but they had to return to Oregon on an early flight Wednesday. Other family members who flew from other states have also returned home without seeing Salinas take her oath of office.
Oregon’s congressional delegation has remained lined up behind their party leaders. Democratic Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Earl Blumenauer and Reps.-elect Hoyle and Salinas have each voted 13 times for House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Republican Reps. Cliff Bentz and Chavez-DeRemer continued to vote for Kevin McCarthy, the California Republican who keeps narrowly losing because of opposition from a small group of further-right Republicans.
The House stands adjourned until 10 p.m. eastern time Friday, at which point McCarthy expects Republican supporters will be back at the Capitol and able to vote for him.
Chavez-DeRemer’s communications director pointed to a tweet the freshman Republican posted Wednesday expressing frustration with the Republican holdouts.
“A small minority is preventing the House from doing the work we were sent here to do,” Chavez-DeRemer said. “We must get our economy back on track, work to get the cost of living under control, and improve safety in our communities. I’m ready to work for the people of Oregon.”
In a statement to the Capital Chronicle, Hoyle said she was “incredibly frustrated” by gridlock caused by the House Republican Caucus.
“For the first time in 100 years, the U.S. House of Representatives has been unable to organize for multiple days,” Hoyle said. “Yet during the previous Congress, when Democrats held a similarly narrow majority, we were able to accomplish many historic, bipartisan legislative achievements. The American people deserve a Congress that works for them – not one mired in endless chaos, confusion, and crisis.”
She added that she was willing to work with anyone, but said Republican leaders are more interested in appeasing extremists in their caucus than working with other members of Congress.
“I sincerely hope that the leadership in the Republican Caucus, who have the majority, will put principles over personalities and allow us to do the work for the American people that we were sent here to do,” Hoyle said. “To that end, House Republicans need to stop their obstructionism and allow Congress to get to work.”
Salinas said she’s unaware of any serious efforts to persuade Democrats to support McCarthy or a compromise candidate, and that the fight is entirely within the Republican caucus. Republicans hold 222 seats in Congress, Democrats hold 212 and there is one vacant position because a Virginia congressman died after the November election.
She said she fears the Republican caucus will be beholden to a faction that wants no government at all.
“I think there is a faction of the Republican Party that is more moderate and actually does want to serve their constituents, but I think they’re going to be beholden to this other smaller faction and that is really telling for the rest of the session in which I think could be in a state of paralysis,” Salinas said. “And it is very sad because we are a full branch of government and we will not be serving our constituents.”