Feeling the pinch, Republicans plan to select a new nominee for House Speaker on Oct. 24. This time around, they must decide between not just one or two candidates but eight. The process began behind closed doors Monday evening, Oct. 23, with each candidate giving a two-minute pitch and answering questions for more than an hour. Then those vying for the position had an additional minute to try to close the deal. On the morning of Oct. 24, the Republican conference will vote for a nominee. At the earliest, the full House will elect a new Speaker within hours. That’s the optimistic timetable, but it is entirely possible that, by the morning of Oct. 25, the House will still be without a replacement for the ousted Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
As it stands, the eight candidates are Reps. Kevin Hern (R-OK), Mike Johnson (R-LA), Byron Donalds (R-FL), Jack Bergman (R-MI), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Gary Palmer (R-AL), Austin Scott (R-GA), and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN).
There may not be sighs of relief all around, though, once a new Speaker-designate has been chosen. As McCarthy found out, it takes only a handful of GOP objectors to bring it all crashing down. With a paper-thin majority, the new nominee will need 217 votes from the 221 Republican members to become House Speaker. Neither of the two previous nominees, Reps. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), could get close.
House Speaker High Anxiety
Within the House Freedom Caucus, the most conservative faction of the Republican conference, patience is wearing thin – particularly after their preferred candidate, Jordan, was rejected three times in votes on the House floor. The caucus released a statement that included a not-so-subtle swipe at the wider conference for failing to elect the Ohio Republican:
“The House Republican Conference must remain in Washington, D.C. until a new Speaker of the House is elected. Republican leadership should have kept Republicans in Washington over the weekend. Our work is not done. In fact, we are starting at ground zero after Jim Jordan, arguably one of the most popular Republicans in the country, was rejected by House Republicans.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) led the effort to remove McCarthy from the Speaker’s chair. Always outspoken, Gaetz didn’t hold back when Jordan’s bid for the gavel was finally ended by a closed-door vote on Oct. 20. “The most popular Republican in Congress was just knifed in an anonymous vote in a secret closed door meeting in the basement of the Capitol,” Gaetz wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “This is the Swamp at work.”
There is no clear frontrunner in this race, though Emmer, Donalds, and Sessions are three names from the nominee list most often seen in media reports. That depends on which news outlets one follows, though. “I’m not really sure who has a leg up on any of that because everybody’s got different factions and issues,” one GOP lawmaker told Axios, “so we’ll see.”
At some point soon – if only to mitigate the growing sense that the GOP is in total disarray, which is far more perception than reality – Republicans are going to have to put their policy differences aside and select a new House Speaker. Achieving that from a field of eight potentials in less than 24 hours is by no means impossible – but it would be impressive, given the turmoil and finger-pointing of the past 20 days.