Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the president pro tempore of the Senate is, once again, for the time being, second in line to be president of the United States.
For the second time this year, chaos and infighting among Republicans in the House of Representatives have left the House without a speaker.
The vice president is, of course, first in the line of succession, should the president die, resign or otherwise be unable to carry out the duties of the office. Next is the House speaker, then the Senate president pro tem.
When the House ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his role on Tuesday, Murray, by default, jumped up a spot. Eight Republicans, joined by all House Democrats, voted to boot McCarthy from the speaker’s chair.
“First and foremost, House Republicans should recognize that the American people can see their dysfunction in plain sight,” Murray said in an emailed statement Thursday. “Whoever they choose as their next Speaker, I hope House Republicans understand that their constituents want neither chaos nor the drastic spending cuts being pushed by the far-right, and I hope they understand that bipartisanship is the only path forward for our country.”
Her standing is temporary. She’ll move back down to third in line as soon as there is a new House speaker. When that will happen is anyone’s guess.
The soonest it could conceivably be is Wednesday, when the House has tentatively scheduled votes to choose a speaker. A candidate needs a majority vote to become speaker. But with multiple Republicans vying for the position, and Democrats, in the minority, all but certain to unanimously support their own candidate, there’s no obvious, immediate path for one candidate to get to a majority.
McCarthy was elected speaker in January after 14 votes that failed to yield a speaker.
That left Murray second in line, in limbo, for four days. It’s a position she finds herself in, again, for an undetermined amount of time.
“What has been will be again,” Ecclesiastes says. “There is nothing new under the sun.”
“Time is a flat circle,” Matthew McConaughey said on “True Detective.”
Murray, elected to her sixth term last year, is the longest-serving Democrat in the Senate. Nothing in the Constitution dictates who should be the Senate president pro tem, but since the mid-20th century it has typically been the most-senior member of the majority party.
Murray, in her 31st year in the Senate, will soon become the longest-serving female senator in history. She currently trails only former California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who entered the Senate two months before Murray but died last week.
The president pro tem presides over the Senate in the vice president’s absence, and can administer Senate oaths of office, sign legislation and preside, with the House speaker, over joint sessions of Congress.
When Murray was second in line in January, she called the position a “tremendous responsibility” and “an obligation and an opportunity.” She said she was preparing for it by making sure she was briefed on all relevant issues.
“I do feel the weight of the responsibility,” Murray said right after she was sworn in, in January. “I don’t think our country wants to see chaos right now. I think they really want us to work together and make sure we’re funding the priorities and passing the policies that really help everyday average people.”