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The lack of a new speaker has ground House business to a halt

<i>Win McNamee/Getty Images</i><br/>GOP leader Kevin McCarthy takes his seat as he arrives for the start of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03
Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images
GOP leader Kevin McCarthy takes his seat as he arrives for the start of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03

By Jack Forrest, CNN

House Republicans’ failure to elect a speaker after days of voting has frozen business in the chamber — and some GOP members are now warning that the impasse has implications on national security-related briefings and oversight.

The speaker position is traditionally filled on the first day of a new Congress, followed by the swearing-in of members. But with the floor fight over Kevin McCarthy’s speakership bid spilling into Thursday — the third day of the new Congress — members-elect still have yet to take the oath of office.

That’s hamstrung critical business, say several top Republicans who want to see McCarthy elected as speaker.

“The Biden administration is going unchecked and there is no oversight of the White House, State Department, Department of Defense, or the intelligence community. We cannot let personal politics place the safety and security of the United States at risk,” the incoming chairs of several committees, including foreign affairs and armed services, said in a statement released on Thursday morning.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, said he was denied from entering a meeting with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because he was informed by House security that he doesn’t yet have a clearance.

“I’m a member of the House (Intelligence) Committee. I’m on the Armed Services Committee, and I can’t meet in the (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) to conduct essential business,” Gallagher said in a news conference Wednesday, referring to the place that is used by military and national security officials to process sensitive and classified information.

“We have a third, one of our three branches of government, offline right now. That is a very dangerous thing for our country, and it cannot continue much longer,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican, told CNN on Wednesday.

He added, “I sit on the House Intelligence Committee. We oversee all 19 intelligence agencies. We are currently offline.”

Incoming House Oversight Committee chair James Comer, however, downplayed the delay in getting down to committee business.

“One or two days isn’t going to be the end of the world. I would prefer that we got to 218 yesterday,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Unfortunately, we did not.”

Other House business at a standstill

Every new Congress must pass a new set of House rules, so without a speaker to oversee adoption of those rules, none will technically exist.

Without an approved House Rules package by the end of business on January 13, committees also won’t be able to pay staff, according to a letter sent last week by the committee in charge of administrative matters, which was first reported by Politico and obtained by CNN.

The same memo warned that student loan payments for committee staff wouldn’t be disbursed if a rules package isn’t adopted by mid-January.

However, per precedents of the chamber, the pay period for members-elect still starts on January 3, even if the first session of Congress begins after that date, as long as their credentials have been filed with the House clerk.

For committees whose chairs aren’t known, they will be headed up in the interim by the committee’s senior-most Republican who also served on the panel in the last Congress, according to the letter sent last week.

But without fully functioning committees, to amend and approve bills before they make their way to the floor for a vote, there will be no legislating. That means Republicans may also have to wait before tackling some of their most pressing priorities, including investigations into President Joe Biden’s administration and family.

Outside of the speaker’s role effectively running the House, they are also in the line of succession for president — raising questions about what happens if there’s no one in the position that’s second in line for the presidency after the vice president.

The Senate president pro tempore is third in line. Sen. Patty Murray was elected to that role Tuesday, making the Democrat from Washington the first woman to hold the position.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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CNN’s Zachary B. Wolf, Ali Zaslav, Ted Barrett, Melanie Zanona, Lauren Fox, Clare Foran, Manu Raju, Morgan Rimmer, Andrea Cambron, Shawna Mizelle and Kaanita Iyer contributed to this report.

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