First District Congressman Kevin Hern isn’t saying no to the possibility of becoming a compromise candidate for U.S. speaker of the House.
Hern, starting only his third term, received votes from new 2nd District Congressman-elect Josh Brecheen of Oklahoma and Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert on the eighth ballot Thursday afternoon and continued to receive votes through subsequent ballots. He received seven votes on the 10th and 11th ballots.
With a bloc of 20 fellow Republicans holding firm against their conference’s elected leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, anything is possible.
Both Hern and Oklahoma 4th District Congressman Tom Cole have previously been mentioned as alternatives to McCarthy, who needs almost every GOP vote to be elected speaker because of the party’s narrow majority.
Asked about the two votes, Hern’s press office sent a link to a statement made to Reese Gorman of The Frontier that says, in part, “If I hear my name, it’s something I’ll have to think and pray about before deciding if it’s a job I’ll run for.”
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To a World reporter’s response that “that doesn’t sound like a ‘no,’” Hern’s communications director said, “You are not wrong.”
Hern, Cole and new 2nd District Congressman-elect Josh Brecheen have been in the middle of the speaker fight, now in its third day. Cole is a close ally of McCarthy and stands to become chairman of the powerful Rules Committee when a new speaker is finally chosen. Brecheen, on the other hand, is one of the 20 blocking McCarthy’s election and is holding out for a rules change that would lessen Cole’s power by opening up the amendment process.
For the past several congresses and the proposed rules for the 118th Congress, amendments have had to go through the Rules Committee to get a vote on the floor.
Brecheen maintains that the procedure leads to omnibus spending packages like the one passed at the end of December, which he says contributes to unsustainable deficits.
Reportedly, Cole has been acting as an intermediary in trying to work out a deal that will get the votes needed for McCarthy to win the speakership.
A request for comment from Cole on Thursday had not been answered by press time.
Brecheen, speaking before his first vote for Hern on Thursday, did not answer directly when asked whether his position was causing conflicts with Oklahoma’s other four House members, all of whom have voted for McCarthy.
“As long as the motives of the people involved are pure, we can find a solution. I appreciation the others in the delegation,” said Brecheen, who voted for Hern on the eighth and ninth ballots for speaker.
Fifth District Congresswoman Stephanie Bice, who voted for McCarthy again Thursday, said Wednesday on “Meet the Press” that she plans to stick with him for the long haul.
“At the end of the day, we believe Kevin McCarthy is best prepared to lead this conference in the 118th (Congress), and we’re prepared to stay here as long as it takes,” Bice said.
Hern received seven votes, including from Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, in the 10th ballot.
The late Carl Albert, a Democrat, is the only Oklahoma to have served as U.S. speaker of the House. He served from 1971 to 1977.