In the wake of Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s unprecedented ouster as speaker, House Republicans are in uncharted territory Wednesday as they search for a replacement for their colleague from California. And without a speaker — one of the most powerful positions in Congress — the U.S. House of Representatives’ functions are extremely limited.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, became the first to publicly share his plans to run, emphatically telling reporters “yes” when asked whether he’d seek to lead the chamber. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the House majority leader, also announced Wednesday that he would run for speaker.
McCarthy announced Tuesday night that he would not seek the position again, setting up an expected intraparty battle for the speakership, which is second in line to the presidency. McCarthy’s removal Tuesday, driven by hard-right members of his party, was a step never before taken in the House. Besides selecting a new leader, House Republicans must find consensus for funding the government by mid-November or again risk a shutdown.
Asked by reporters Wednesday whether he is running for speaker, Jordan offered a one-word answer: “Yes.”
Jordan was elected to Congress in 2006 and has steadily risen in the ranks of the Republican conference. In January, he became chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and has used that perch to fight those who are investigating former president Donald Trump.
Jordan was one of eight House lawmakers who were part of Trump’s defense team in his first Senate impeachment trial. In one of Trump’s last acts as president, he gave Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian award.
A former chairman of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, Jordan was first nominated for the speakership in January by hard-right Republicans who opposed McCarthy. At the time, however, Jordan steadfastly maintained his support for McCarthy.
Among those in Jordan’s corner this time around: Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who spearheaded the push for McCarthy to be removed from his leadership position.
“My mentor Jim Jordan would be great!” Gaetz posted Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, in response to a report that Jordan was entertaining a speaker’s bid.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), an ally of McCarthy’s with ties to the Freedom Caucus, and Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) also have expressed support for Jordan.
In a statement early Wednesday afternoon, Scalise, the second-highest-ranking Republican in the House, announced he would seek the speakership.
Scalise, who was critically wounded in 2017 when a gunman opened fire at a GOP practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, described the Republican conference as a family “who saved my life on that field.”
“Now, more than ever, we must mend the deep wounds that exist within our Conference,” Scalise wrote. “I have a proven track record of bringing together the diverse array of viewpoints within our Conference to build consensus where others thought it impossible.”
The Louisianian was first sworn into Congress in 2008 after campaigning as a voice of the South and red-state Republicans more broadly. He went on to chair the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of the most conservative House members.
Scalise might, however, struggle to gain the support of the Freedom Caucus. Although Scalise is more conservative than McCarthy, the group sees him as part of the “establishment” and entrenched in GOP leadership.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) expressed support for Scalise on Tuesday, several news outlets reported. It is noteworthy because Emmer has also been considered a shortlist candidate.
On Wednesday, Republicans who voted to keep McCarthy in the speakership said the big challenge ahead was figuring out how their conference could rack up enough votes for their next speaker.
“I think the mood is not great,” said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), noting that he doesn’t believe any candidate — officially announced or not — can currently get the 217 votes needed to secure the speakership.
Armstrong, however, said he has one question for whoever wants the job: “How are you going to ensure that what happened never happens again?”
Scalise and Jordan haven’t yet made a pitch to him for his support, he noted, because they know how close he is to McCarthy.
“I’m gonna give this 12, 24, 36 hours before we start talking about pitching,” Armstrong said.
Earlier in the day, during a lengthy gaggle with reporters, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), another McCarthy ally, said it is “premature” to have a conversation about who the next speaker should be.
Instead, Graves focused his frustrations on Gaetz, whom he accused of not thinking about the consequences of his actions.
“He’s frozen the House,” Graves said. “Not just the accountability measures, not just the impeachment inquiry and those things, but also we can’t even act to cut funds. I mean, this was so stupid.”
While Graves suggested that Gaetz might face consequences from the GOP conference, Armstrong said House Republicans are unlikely to expel him from their ranks.
“You don’t get to kick somebody out because you think he’s an a——,” he said. “But we have to figure out a way to function as a rule-based organization where five people have a petty grievance at any given day.”
Several Republicans interested in running for speaker made their pitches to members of the sizable Texas House Republican delegation Wednesday morning.
Among those doing so: Scalise, Jordan and Rep. Kevin Hern (Okla.).
Hern, who has been in Congress since 2018, told reporters that his business experience — he had operated 18 McDonald’s franchises in addition to other ventures — meant he could bring a different approach to the job.
“Thinking about a different face, somebody who’s got different experiences than probably everyone else [who] is going to announce. And we’re going to speak to that and see how that resonates with the folks,” he said.
President Biden offered his take on McCarthy’s ouster, saying that “more than anything, we need to change the poisonous atmosphere in Washington.”
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Biden also emphasized that the federal government has “a lot of work to do” to reach a spending agreement. Last weekend, Congress passed a bipartisan measure to fund the government, but only through mid-November.
“We have strong disagreements, but we need to stop seeing each other as enemies. We need to talk to one another,” he said.
The president added that he was “grateful” to all parties, including McCarthy — whom he referred to as the former speaker — for their work in negotiations to keep the government open.
Gaetz, who led the effort to oust McCarthy, is fundraising off the opposition within GOP ranks to removing the speaker.
Graves, the McCarthy ally from Louisiana, admonished Gaetz on the House floor ahead of Tuesday’s vote to remove McCarthy. Graves held up his phone, which displayed a message from Gaetz’s campaign, and said that “using official actions” to raise money “is disgusting.”
In a fundraising email sent by his campaign on Wednesday, Gaetz wrote that he “was ATTACKED and BOOED by RINOs” — Republicans in Name Only — for asking his supporters to “contribute to this fight.”
“I will NOT be lectured by Republicans who grovel and bend knee for the lobbyists and special interests who have hollowed out this town and borrowed against the future of our future generations,” the email says. “These lobbyists and special interests own our leadership and HATE that I fund my political operation by asking Patriotic Americans for $10, $20, and $30 at a time.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Wednesday that the next House speaker should get rid of the motion-to-vacate rule, which triggered McCarthy’s ouster.
“I have no advice to give to House Republicans, except one: I hope whoever the next speaker is, gets rid of the motion to vacate,” McConnell said. “I think it makes the speaker’s job impossible, and the American people expect us to have a functioning government.”
McConnell began his news conference by thanking McCarthy “for his service” and noted that he and the California Republican “had a great personal relationship.”
“I think he has much to be proud of, he avoided a government shutdown, did the inevitable with regard to the debt ceiling,” McConnell said. “I’m one person who is extremely grateful for his service.”
As former president Donald Trump arrived for the third day of his civil fraud trial in New York on Wednesday, he waved off talk about becoming speaker himself, saying he was focused on his presidential reelection bid.
“A lot of people have been calling me about speaker,” Trump told reporters before entering a courtroom. “All I can say is, we’ll do whatever is best for the country and for the Republican Party.”
Asked whether he would take the job, Trump did not rule it out but again emphasized that he wanted to be president.
“If I can help them through the process, I would do it, but we have some great people in the Republican Party who could do a great job as speaker,” he said. “I’ll do whatever it is to help, but my focus — my total focus — is being president.”
Former congressman Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) is walking back comments he made on social media, after what he said was interpreted by some as antisemitic.
After McCarthy lost his bid on Tuesday to remain House speaker, Jones shared an image of McCarthy meeting with Hasidic leaders in New York alongside Rep. Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.). Jones is seeking Lawler’s congressional seat.
“Well this was a waste of everyone’s time,” Jones posted Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, alongside the image of the meeting.
Jones later said the post “was too open to misinterpretation.”
“My point was to communicate that Kevin McCarthy, and by extension Michael Lawler, cannot possibly deliver for communities in Rockland because he’s no longer Speaker. Regrettably, I did not make this point clear enough, and so I have deleted the tweet,” Jones wrote Wednesday, adding that he’s “a strong ally of our diverse Jewish communities.”