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Lobbyists who represent business interests on Capitol Hill are reeling from the removal of a sitting speaker, as they try to assess how the new candidates for the job could shift the legislative agenda.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the two official contenders, are well known among lobbyists. Lobbyists said privately that if their industry had a vote, it would likely go for Scalise over Jordan, even as Jordan’s image is less rabble rouser than in past years. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who chairs the Financial Services Committee and is serving as a temporary speaker, would be a favorite among lobbyists, but he’s said he does not want the position.
Other candidates may also seek the speaker’s gavel, or be recruited. The uncertainty, after lawmakers tossed Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the top job, has lobbying and business interests hoping for a quick election to get on with pressing legislative operations.
“They need to make some decisions about leadership, whoever it’s going to be, and get on with the business,” said former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), a lobbyist with Crossroads Strategies who also previously served in the House. Lott said lawmakers should put aside their personal and partisan interests and think about the country.
Lobbyists said they were worried about what the speaker turmoil might mean for the congressional calendar and the potential for a deal to fund the government beyond Nov. 17 when a continuing resolution runs out. Lawmakers still have on their agenda an annual defense authorization, a farm bill and other priorities.
“The truth is no one really knows how this will affect the functioning of government, and the downtown sentiment across the political spectrum is a mix of outright shock and anxiety,” said Stephanie Silverman, CEO of Venn Strategies. “Regular order hasn’t been regular for a while, but this level of irregularity is well beyond what we are trained to process.”
While lobbyists might prefer Scalise, they acknowledge Jordan has shifted his reputation to be less of a political bomb thrower.
Scalise has been a regular on the D.C. fundraising scene and is second, only to McCarthy, in bringing in campaign donations, though he has been in treatment for cancer in recent months.
His network downtown includes former aides Matt Bravo, a partner at the S-3 Group and Eric Zulkosky of Fierce Government Relations.
Jordan’s ties to the corporate lobbying community are relatively small, a potential selling point in the current GOP conference, which has been at odds with big business particularly on social issues.
He is a top fundraiser within for the party and, like former President Donald Trump, raises a lot in small-dollar donations from individuals. Company and lobbying group political action committees that have donated to Jordan this year include UPS and Anheuser-Busch.
McCarthy has not said what he might do next. He can remain in the House, or depart for a new gig.
McCarthy and his leadership aides would likely be able to find lucrative jobs in the lobbying sector, lobbyists and K Street recruiters said.
“Both he and his staff will be sought after by K Street,” said lobbying headhunter Ivan Adler, who runs his own recruiting firm. “Especially in Washington, being fired from a political position is not fatal by any means…. Even though he wasn’t speaker for a long time, the fact that he was is what matters.”
Leadership aides are among the most prized, both on and off Capitol Hill.
“The Speaker assembled a highly talented group of staffers,” said Steve Stombres, who was the top staffer to then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) when the lawmaker lost his seat in a primary in 2014. “They have a very attractive skill set and experience that the private sector will really value.”
Stombres, after Cantor’s loss, worked to help his staff land jobs. He now runs Harbinger Strategies. The night of his defeat, Cantor told his aides that he believed when one door closed another would open.
“Over the years, I’ve really seen the wisdom of what he said,” Stombres said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Ackley at email@example.com