After a spectacular failure on a third vote for Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-OH) bid to become Speaker of the House, the GOP dropped the Ohio lawmaker as their candidate, and now the floodgates are open. Overnight, nearly a dozen Republicans have either announced their candidacy or, at least, revealed they are exploring their options. Who will the party pick as its champion on Monday?
Jordan Talks Himself Out of the Job?
At 8 a.m. Eastern Friday morning, October 20 – the very day after President Joe Biden’s second prime-time speech from the Oval Office – Rep. Jordan held a press conference of his own. While it seemed at first that he might be gearing up for some grand announcement, it turned out all the would-be speaker did was implore the party to unify behind him so Congress can get back to the business of governing.
However, his grand message may have come across as grandstanding; it seems his colleagues didn’t appreciate his attempt to push them into his corner. Jordan lost more Republican votes in the third round that followed his speech than either of the previous two rounds. Reps. Marc Molinaro of New York, Tom Kean of New Jersey, and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, all of whom had supported Jordan in the first two elections, voted against him the third and final time, bringing the total up to 25 against him.
The final count was 210 Democrats – all who were present and voting – in support of Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and just 194 Republicans for Jim Jordan. Those who opted not to follow the party majority called out the names of various other GOP members instead, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), the previous party pick for Speaker of the House who dropped out of the race and to this day affirms he is no longer seeking the gavel.
While Jordan’s speech certainly made it seem there would be multiple rounds on Friday, the House recessed after no candidate received a majority in the first and only vote of the day. Shortly thereafter, Republicans met behind closed doors and voted not to continue to support Jordan for speaker.
The House Speaker Buffet – Plenty to Pick From
Who, then, will rise to take on the mantle of GOP speaker designee? The formerly limited field of options exploded overnight, as nine prospective candidates either openly declared or, at the very least, explored their options.
Keven Hern (R-OK)
Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, who had previously considered running but stood aside to let Scalise and Jordan give it a go, announced his bid for speaker while walking out of the closed-door conference meeting after Jordan was dropped. “It’s pretty obvious that our delegation is looking at something to be different than what we’ve seen so far,” he said. “I bring a different perspective than possibly anybody else that could be running this race.”
Tom Emmer (R-MN)
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer has reportedly been making calls to drum up support for his run at the speakership. The Minnesota lawmaker, who formerly served as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee – would be the highest-ranking member to reach for the role, and he is expected by many to emerge as the frontrunner. He has held other leadership positions in the past, and even without Emmer officially announcing a bid, the former speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), endorsed him as a successor. “He is the right person for the job. He can unite the conference. He understands the dynamics of the conference. He also understands what it takes to win and keep a majority,” McCarthy told Punchbowl News.
Byron Donalds (R-FL)
A spokesman for Florida’s Rep. Byron Donalds confirmed Friday evening that the second-term lawmaker is running for speaker. This won’t be Donalds’ first reach for the gavel. He had some backing in both the 15-ballot speaker race earlier this year and all three of Jordan’s ballots this week.
Pete Sessions (R-TX)
Pete Sessions of Texas announced Friday afternoon his candidacy. Sessions served as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee from 2009 to 2013. He then became chairman of the House Rules Committee, holding that position from 2013 to 2019. Sessions has remained in the rank-and-file since then. Now he’s shooting to rejoin the leadership, but in the highest position available. “Congressman Sessions believes he can forge a positive path as a conservative leader who can unite the Conference,” his office wrote in a statement.
Jack Bergman (R-MI)
Retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Jack Bergman is in his fourth term in the House. The Michigan Republican was relatively unknown nationally until this week, but after two big-name speaker nominees failed, the lesser-known members feel emboldened to try. “What we need right now is a speaker who has experience leading and can put ego aside to work together for the American people,” Bergman said. “We need a leader who shuns permanent power and recognizes the current crisis of leadership. I’m ready to serve. Together, we can end the deadlock and win the vote.“
Dan Meuser (R-PA)
Pennsylvania’s Dan Meuser hasn’t officially declared his candidacy yet, but he did tell reporters after Friday’s GOP meeting that he’s “strongly considering” it. “I come from the business world and I plan to bring, if I run, a business perspective to things and gain consensus and do the things that are necessary in order to get 217 votes,” Meuser said after the closed-door meeting. He previously served as secretary of revenue for Pennsylvania and currently sits on the Financial Services and Small Business Committees.
Jodey Arrington (R-TX)
Rep. Jodey Arrington of Texas is also considering joining the race, he says. “I would say I am seriously considering and still praying about it,” the chair of the House Budget Committee told reporters. But he added that there are “a lot of people to talk to before that decision is made.” Arrington said that he would speak to the rest of his state’s delegation and that “a number of members have asked us to consider it.” Arrington’s answers came when reporters interrupted him asking his wife, “What do you want me to do, honey?”
Mike Johnson (R-LA)
The current vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, is making calls about running for speaker, according to a spokesperson. The fourth-term lawmaker is also an attorney and former talk show host who now serves on the House Judiciary Committee and seems well liked by his colleagues. Johnson had reportedly been taking calls from other members who suggested he run for speaker should Jordan’s bid fail, but he still supported Jordan through all three rounds of voting.
Austin Scott (R-GA)
Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia had given no signs that he planned to run for speaker until his surprise challenge to Jordan last week. Scott lost the secret ballot against his colleague from Ohio in a 124-81 vote, but that’s still a strong showing of support for someone who jumped in out of the blue against a popular and established candidate. “I don’t necessarily want to be the Speaker of the House, I want the House to function correctly, but the House is not functioning correctly right now,” he told reporters at the time. Scott is officially back in the running, having announced Friday. “If we are going to be the majority we need to act like the majority, and that means we have to do the right things the right way,” he wrote on X. “I supported and voted for Rep. Jim Jordan to be the Speaker of the House. Now that he has withdrawn I am running again to be the Speaker of the House.”
There Can Be Only One
When House Republicans meet once again at 6:30 p.m. Monday evening, they’ll have nine potential candidates to choose from – that we know of, as others could always toss their hats in the ring at the last minute. In the end, however, there can be only one. Any candidate – Republican or Democrat – gaining bipartisan support seems about as likely as some random person off the streets gaining the gavel in this deeply divided House.
Which Republican, then, will appeal to the whole GOP? The party’s prospective speaker, whoever that ends up being, can only afford to lose a small handful of votes from his or her own side. That someone will emerge victorious Monday night is almost a given. Someone is bound to gain a majority of the majority – but can that person then win the majority of the whole? The earliest a floor vote could give us an answer is Tuesday.