Democrats and Republicans Sidestep Tensions In Their Parties: The Kiplinger Letter

The country may be stuck with a closely divided House and a closely divided Senate for the foreseeable future.

To help you understand what’s happening on the Hill, and what we expect to happen in the future, our highly experienced Kiplinger Letter team will keep you abreast of the latest developments and forecasts (Get a free issue of The Kiplinger Letter or subscribe). You'll get all the latest news first by subscribing, but we will publish many (but not all) of the forecasts a few days afterward online. Here’s the latest…

One thing that the recent fight over the House speakership has proved, centrist Republicans are increasingly willing to fight back after years of allowing the right-wing Freedom Caucus to take center stage in GOP politics.

The centrists flexed their muscles most recently against Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who whiffed on three attempts to become the next speaker despite mounting a significant pressure campaign against those who opposed him. The group is a strange grab bag of lawmakers, ranging from moderates representing competitive districts to incumbents inclined toward pragmatism.

Time will tell whether their influence will grow or remain a temporary blip. But for now, it will make the House GOP even more difficult to manage since the Freedom Caucus, used to getting its way, will also remain assertive.

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And as House Republicans attempt to recover from their intraparty conflict, Senate Democrats have managed to sidestep a greater schism in California, now that Laphonza Butler, appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to fill the vacancy left by the death of Dianne Feinstein, has confirmed she will not run for a full term. Had she done so, Butler would have had an immediate advantage as the incumbent and would have exacerbated already heightened tensions within the candidate field.

As a result, the Senate Democratic primary will remain a three-horse race. Of the candidates, we give Adam Schiff a slight edge over Katie Porter and Barbara Lee, all of whom currently serve in the House. At this point, Schiff leads in most polls, has many establishment connections and is a prodigious fund-raiser, though Porter is still within striking distance, with Lee placing a distant third. Neither of the trailing candidates can be counted out. But they’re running out of time.

While Democrats will win the Senate election, no matter the candidate, don’t overlook other possible ramifications. For example, Porter’s district remains competitive and could represent a pickup opportunity for the Republicans. 

Meanwhile, after 22 days without a House speaker amid intense Republican infighting, the party finally found someone it could stomach: Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA). Johnson is relatively unknown in D.C., with no senior leadership experience and little time for on-the-job training now, as many pressing legislative battles loom. The new speaker’s first big challenge will be avoiding a government shutdown. A continuing resolution passed at the end of September is set to expire on November 17. He must also navigate tricky partisan waters on military aid for Ukraine and Israel. 

Expect Johnson to hang on to the gavel, at least for a while. A conservative, he appeals to right-wing Republicans on policy and will get a fairly long leash from them. At the same time, his measured temperament appeals to moderates. 

This forecast first appeared in The Kiplinger Letter, which has been running since 1923 and is a collection of concise weekly forecasts on business and economic trends, as well as what to expect from Washington, to help you understand what’s coming up to make the most of your investments and your money. Subscribe to The Kiplinger Letter.

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Sean Lengell
Associate Editor, The Kiplinger Letter

Sean Lengell covers Congress and government policy for The Kiplinger Letter. Before joining Kiplinger in January 2017 he served as a congressional reporter for eight years with the Washington Examiner and the Washington Times. He previously covered local news for the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. A native of northern Illinois who spent much of his youth in St. Petersburg, Fla., he holds a bachelor's degree in English from Marquette University.