Amidst Kevin McCarthy’s Removal, House Republicans Struggle to Elect a New Speaker

by Chloe Baker
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House Speaker election

Facing an impasse in the selection of a new Speaker of the House, the Republican majority is slated to hold a confidential internal vote, though legislators caution that reaching consensus could take an extended period—ranging from hours to days—especially in the aftermath of Kevin McCarthy’s removal from the position.

On Wednesday, two main candidates emerged for the leadership role: Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan. Both presented their leadership visions to their Republican peers during an extensive pre-vote candidate forum, but neither has secured sufficient support to be a clear favorite.

McCarthy, who had previously angled to regain his lost position, informed his colleagues that he should not be considered for nomination during this electoral round. He used Tuesday’s late-evening candidate forum to read a Mother Teresa poem and offer a prayer for unity.

Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas expressed uncertainty regarding the attainment of the 218 votes usually required for electing a new Speaker, stating, “This could be a long week.”

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Only 10 months after seizing the majority with ambitions of cohesive governance and a business-like approach to politics, House Republicans find themselves in disarray. Their historic expulsion of a sitting Speaker—a U.S. first—alongside prolonged internal conflicts, has effectively paralyzed the House during a period of domestic and international crises.

Now, as House Republicans gear up for expedited elections on Wednesday to select a new Speaker nominee, the faction of hard-right lawmakers responsible for McCarthy’s ousting has demonstrated the disproportionate influence a small group can exert on leadership choices.

“I am not thrilled with either choice right now,” noted Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, a Republican who had supported McCarthy’s removal.

Both Scalise and Jordan have been actively courting support within the party, each winning dozens of preliminary votes. However, it remains uncertain if either candidate can consolidate enough Republican votes to negate Democratic opposition in a floor vote, especially given the current narrow margins in the House. The standard majority of 218 is currently reduced to 217 due to two vacant seats.

Numerous Republicans are wary of a disorderly public struggle for the Speaker’s role, similar to the contentious episode when McCarthy initially secured his position. Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida voiced concerns about airing intra-party disputes in public, preferring “to have this family fight behind closed doors.”

Some legislators are considering a change in voting rules, a measure interim Speaker pro tempore Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is contemplating. The objective is to ensure a candidate gains majority support in internal voting before being presented for a full House floor vote.

McCarthy himself suggested a consensus approach: “They shouldn’t come out of there until they decide that they have enough votes for whoever they bring to the floor.”

Without a rule change, Republicans are expected to adhere to a majority-wins strategy, where the victor of the internal private vote receives full Republican backing during the floor vote. However, given the prevailing low levels of trust and high tensions among House Republicans, this established protocol could be subject to challenge.

While Scalise and Jordan share conservative perspectives, neither seems to be the automatic successor to McCarthy. Scalise, revered for his survival of a 2017 mass shooting, faces health challenges, while Jordan’s alignment with former President Donald Trump could polarize the caucus.

A variety of Republican lawmakers, some of whom were instrumental in McCarthy’s removal, indicated openness to backing either candidate. But others, especially those from politically divided districts, are hoping for another option.

At present, McHenry temporarily holds the reins. His role, created post-9/11 to ensure government continuity, is not designed for a long-term stay. Despite some calls to empower McHenry further as the struggle for the Speaker position persists, it appears unlikely that he will hold the role beyond his interim status.

Reporters Farnoush Amiri and Stephen Groves contributed to this coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about House Speaker election

Who are the main contenders for the Speaker’s role after Kevin McCarthy’s ouster?

The two leading candidates for the position of Speaker of the House are Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan. Both are actively courting support within the Republican party.

What are the issues causing delays in the selection of a new Speaker?

Several factors are contributing to the delay, including internal divisions within the Republican caucus, differing visions for leadership, and the lack of a candidate with broad-based support capable of securing a majority in a floor vote.

Why did Kevin McCarthy say he should not be nominated for the Speaker role again?

Kevin McCarthy informed his colleagues that he should not be considered for nomination during this electoral round. During a late-evening candidate forum, he read a poem by Mother Teresa and offered a unity prayer.

What is the minimum number of votes needed to elect the Speaker?

Usually, a minimum of 218 votes is needed in the 435-seat House to elect the Speaker. However, there are currently two vacant seats, lowering the threshold to 217.

What is Rep. Patrick McHenry’s role in the ongoing Speaker election?

Rep. Patrick McHenry is currently serving as the interim Speaker pro tempore. He is considering a rules change to ensure that a candidate gains majority support in internal voting before being presented for a full House floor vote.

What are the political consequences of this struggle within the Republican party?

The inability to promptly elect a new Speaker has effectively paralyzed the House during a critical period of domestic and international crises. It has also laid bare the divisions within the Republican caucus.

Are there any Republicans who are still supportive of Kevin McCarthy?

Yes, some Republicans, particularly those from politically divided districts, have expressed a preference for Kevin McCarthy, despite his removal.

What are the top priorities for the Republican candidates for Speaker?

Both leading candidates, Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan, have presented similar views about cutting spending and securing the southern border with Mexico, which are top Republican priorities.

How has the hard-right faction within the House Republicans influenced the Speaker’s election?

The hard-right coalition of lawmakers that ousted McCarthy has demonstrated a disproportionate influence on the process, showing what an oversized role a small group of lawmakers can have in leadership choices.

What are the options if neither of the main candidates secures enough support?

If neither Scalise nor Jordan can amass enough votes to secure a majority, House Republicans would likely continue their internal deliberations. Some have suggested altering voting rules to facilitate a majority decision during closed balloting.

More about House Speaker election

  • Kevin McCarthy’s Ouster Explained
  • Profile of Majority Leader Steve Scalise
  • Who is Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan?
  • Rules for Electing the Speaker of the House
  • Republican Party Internal Divisions
  • The Role and Responsibilities of Speaker pro tempore
  • Historical Overview of Speaker Elections
  • The Impact of Speaker Elections on Legislative Agenda
  • Current Vacancies in the House of Representatives
  • Impact of Divided Party Leadership on Congressional Effectiveness

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