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Forecast: A bipartisan House speaker?

Published 7 months ago • 2 min read

Welcome to Nonrival, the newsletter where readers make predictions about business, tech, and politics.

Thanks for forecasting. Send feedback to newsletter@nonrival.pub.

In this issue

  • Forecast: Will the next Speaker of the US House of Representatives be elected with votes from both Republicans and Democrats?
  • (Make a forecast with one click at the bottom of this email.)

The spirit of bipartisanship

House Republicans can’t seem to select a speaker. The caucus voted to nominate Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, who then withdrew on Thursday when it became clear he could not secure enough Republicans to reach the 217 votes necessary for a majority.

But as Harvey Dent reminded us in The Dark Knight, the night is darkest just before the dawn. And so, amid the dysfunction, Washington has begun to speculate that bipartisanship might rescue the House. Perhaps Democrats and Republicans will choose a speaker together.

“A bipartisan group of roughly ten House lawmakers is quietly holding ‘very’ serious discussions,” Axios reported on Friday. Semafor reported that “there may not be serious back room conversations yet” but that “some Republicans suggested that they might not have any choice but to strike a bargain across the aisle.” The Washington Post described the negotiations as “informal and limited.”

For now, Republicans have a new candidate. Late Friday afternoon, the caucus nominated Jim Jordan of Ohio—who’d previously lost to Scalise.

Jordan is a founder of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump ally, so it’s hard to see Democrats bailing him out if he can’t secure 217 of the 221 Republicans’ votes—as some of his colleagues predicted. (Forecasters at Good Judgment Open currently give Jordan about a one-in-three chance of becoming speaker.)

If Jordan’s candidacy fails, a bipartisan push could come from the “Problem Solvers Caucus,” and could even involve changes to House rules to facilitate more power sharing between parties.

As Brookings’ William Galston has outlined:

“Under these circumstances, the better outcome is a coalition Speaker who would be a Republican elected pursuant to a formal bargain between Republicans and Democrats who are prepared to support such an arrangement. The bargain could include rules changes, shifts toward partisan parity in the composition of committees, and even a substantive agreement on a framework within which the appropriations process would proceed.”

One factor that might enable a deal: emergency military funding for Israel, which can't pass while the House is immobilized.

But all this would have to happen in a bitterly divided House, at a time of high political polarization—and in the shadow of de facto Republican party leader Donald Trump, who would inevitably attack any such compromise.

If it sounds like a stretch, that’s because it is. But so is seemingly every other way this story could end.

This email was written as of 5:30pm Friday. Any updates as of Saturday aren't reflected.

Forecast

Will the next Speaker of the US House of Representatives be elected with votes from both Republicans and Democrats?

​Very likely (~90% chance)

Likely (~70%)

Uncertain (~50%)

Unlikely (~30%)

Very unlikely (~10%)

Bonus trivia: Which state's Senate is currently governed by a bipartisan coalition? Alaska, South Dakota, or Virginia?

(Make a forecast by clicking a link above and you'll get to answer this trivia question.)

Just want to make a quick forecast? Click a link above and you're done! Your forecast will be recorded.

Or, click a link and then complete the survey. You can provide your reasoning and end with a bit of trivia.

Deadline: Make a forecast by 9am ET Tues. 10/17.

Resolution criteria: The question applies to the next elected Speaker, regardless of when that happens or how long they serve. The question resolves Yes if that Speaker receives at least one yes vote from a Republican and at least one yes vote from a Democrat.

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