Republicans angling to replace ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will vie for their colleagues’ approval Tuesday, as pressure mounts for Republicans to unite behind a leader with war breaking out in Israel.
(Bloomberg) — Republicans angling to replace ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will vie for their colleagues’ approval Tuesday, as pressure mounts for Republicans to unite behind a leader with war breaking out in Israel.
Republicans remain deeply divided over who the next speaker should be, with no candidate emerging as the clear consensus. Without someone in the top job, the chamber’s business grinds to a halt, delaying work on pressing priorities ranging from domestic federal funding to aid for Israel’s military.
“It’s a scattergram. We are all over the map on the way forward,” Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas said as he left a meeting of House Republicans at the Capitol Monday. “There are lot of free agents in there.”
The No. 2 House Republican, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, have been waging a two-person race for the top job since the House voted to remove McCarthy last week. The former speaker said Monday he’d return to the role if that was the will of the party.
Monday’s meeting was intended to be the first in a series for the Republicans to discuss their next leader before a party vote on Wednesday. Representative David Joyce of Ohio told reporters that he doesn’t believe much progress has been made on picking a candidate, meaning that negotiations could easily spill into next week, or beyond.
Jordan has the backing of many conservatives as well as former president Donald Trump, while Scalise, who is battling an incurable but treatable blood cancer, has more support among the party establishment. The two have policy differences as well. Jordan opposes more assistance for Ukraine, while Scalise has supported it.
Others have called for McCarthy to be quickly reinstated given the conflict in Israel and the risk that neither Scalise nor Jordan can get the votes for the speakership. McCarthy on Monday continued to play the part of the speaker, laying out a five-part plan for responding to the latest Middle East crisis.
Yet there were no signs that the eight Republicans who voted to oust him last week would reconsider their position. The narrow Republican majority means that any candidate can only lose a handful of votes from members of their own party.
Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee, one of the eight, said he could support either Scalise and Jordan but not McCarthy. He added that he thinks Republicans will unify on a candidate but didn’t have any “earthly idea” of when that would happen.
Republicans are also considering changing their rules to increase the threshold to nominate a speaker, said Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican. That would mean that a candidate wouldn’t go to the full House for a vote until the GOP is aligned, avoiding the embarrassing public battle and multiple rounds of voting it took to get McCarthy elected in January.
She said there was also discussion regarding changing the rule that made it possible for one member to call up a vote to remove McCarthy.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries on Monday called for “traditional Republicans” to join them for a bipartisan approach to governing in a statement on X, formerly Twitter. That’s not likely to be a popular idea among many Republicans.
Democrats are also unlikely to support restoring McCarthy. They have complained that he reneged on a spending level deal he cut with President Joe Biden earlier this year and are displeased with his decision to launch an impeachment inquiry into the president. They have also been critical of the former speaker for engaging with Trump so quickly after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by his supporters.
Representative Nick LaLota, a moderate New York Republican, said he thinks it will take two weeks of discussions among Republicans to land on a new speaker.
“This was like the first session of marriage counseling,” he said about Monday night’s meeting. “Everybody aired their grievances.”
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.