Republicans looking to change internal speaker nomination rules

House Republicans are eyeing changing internal party rules to temporarily raise the threshold needed to nominate a speaker, with the intention of avoiding the sort of days-long, multi-ballot election that took place on the House floor in January.

A group of 94 House Republicans — more than 40 percent of the conference — signed a letter to Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) on Friday asking for a special conference meeting to change the rules.

“Pursuant to House Republican Conference Rule 6(d)(2)(A), we request a special organizational meeting for the purpose of consideration of an amendment to House Republican Conference Rules to temporarily raise the threshold needed to elect a speaker,” reads the letter, led by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).

Sources familiar with the letter say members are eyeing raising the threshold to win the nomination from a simple majority of the conference to a majority of the House — normally a threshold of 218, but currently 217 with vacancies — to ensure the speaker’s speedy election on the House floor. 

Currently, the GOP conference needs just a simple majority to nominate a speaker.

But that poses risks for the fractious GOP conference when it has just a slim majority. Objections by just a small faction of the conference led to a 15-ballot election in January to elect former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — the first multi-ballot election in 100 years — and then his ouster Tuesday, when just eight GOP members turned against him.

Members are trying to avoid a similar scene next week.

“We need to be coming together and coalescing around a speaker. I don’t think we should go do it out there on the House floor like was done in January, and we looked like a bunch of idiots,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) said this week. “I think those conversations need to be had behind closed doors, have the candid discussions, then come out once we’ve coalesced … and do it on the House floor.”

House Republicans are scheduled to have a closed-door candidate forum Tuesday and a nominating election Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) have declared their candidacies for the position, while Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) is another possible contender.

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