How about an Alaska-style coalition to end the impasse at the U.S. House? Nice idea, Peltola says.

woman in striped jacket
Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola in the halls of the Capitol. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

With Republicans in the U.S. House still unable to elect a speaker, Alaska Congresswoman Mary Peltola said Thursday that it might be time to start thinking about a bipartisan solution. But, as even she acknowledges, that goes against the grain of Congress.

Peltola said she’s received tons of text messages from Alaskans proposing to end the speaker stalemate the way Juneau often does, with a bipartisan coalition leading the House. 

Like all House Democrats, she’s voted each and every time this week for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries for speaker. But, on the third day, she emailed a statement suggesting a novel approach.

“I came to D.C. to do the work, not to score political points against my colleagues or perform for television cameras,” her statement said. “Hakeem Jeffries is my choice for Speaker of the House. That said, I have always been willing to work with people regardless of political party. If there are members who want to form a coalition majority like we often see in Alaska, I’m open to discussing that. Anything that gets us communicating with each other rather than talking at each other would be a good thing at this point.”

It’s a great concept, in theory, Peltola said, especially for a state House of 40 members.

“But in a field of 435 where the divisions are so deep?” she said, “And even in nominating speeches, the language is very incendiary. Very fomenting. Very divisive. Very accusatory. Very blaming — even in nominating speeches!”

It can take 30 days to put a coalition together in Juneau, and she said it would take even longer in D.C. Peltola isn’t starting down this path, as lovely as it may be.

“I am not imagining I would be putting a coalition together,” she said. “What I’m saying is, I think Americans at large would be delighted to see a functioning House, and one that is able to work beyond partisanship.”

Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat representing the Seattle area, said a Juneau-style coalition just isn’t realistic in the U.S. House.

“If the Republicans were prepared to offer us a true power-sharing arrangement, whereby we chaired some committees, we got things in the rules package that we wanted — but they won’t do that,” he said. “I mean, the rules package that they put together is an abomination, in our opinion. So they’d have to radically change that and offer us far more than I think they would ever even consider offering.”

Another thing that’s not going to happen? Smith said Democrats aren’t going to end the impasse by peeling off to support Republican frontrunner Kevin McCarthy.

Among other complaints, Smith said McCarthy empowered the right-wing hardliners who are now denying him the speakership and has refused to hold the Jan. 6 insurrectionists to account.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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