The race for the position of House Speaker, following the removal of Kevin McCarthy, has begun in earnest with Steve Scalise (R-LA), the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, and Jim Jordan (R-OH), a leading critic of President Joe Biden and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announcing their bids.
McCarthy’s removal, driven by a rebellious faction of fellow Republicans, was an unprecedented event as it marked the first time the chamber has removed its leader from a position that is second in line to the president after the vice president. The Republicans have scheduled a vote for October 11 to select a successor.
Scalise, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, has long been considered McCarthy’s heir apparent and has been privately meeting with Republicans to build support for his bid. He is seen as being more conservative than McCarthy.
On the other hand, Jordan, a former college wrestler who has led investigations into the Biden administration, first gained prominence as a leader of the party’s right wing before eventually forming an alliance with McCarthy.
Both Scalise and Jordan face potential challenges. Jordan is viewed by some moderates as being too far to the right, and by some hardliners as too close to McCarthy. Scalise is seen by McCarthy allies as having done nothing to help him during the leadership challenge and faces questions about his physical ability to do the job.
Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), who leads a policy group for conservative lawmakers, also said he was considering a bid.
In the interim, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) is temporarily serving as speaker following McCarthy’s removal.
The removal of McCarthy has caused Wall Street to worry about U.S. political governance, following a near-miss with a partial federal government shutdown this weekend and a previous showdown earlier this year that took the U.S. government to the brink of default.
The speaker’s job has proven difficult for Republicans in recent years. The last Republican speaker, Paul Ryan, retired from Congress after struggling to work with Trump, a fellow Republican. His predecessor John Boehner left after clashes with the party’s right wing.
Some Republicans said they needed to change the chamber’s rules to make it more difficult to remove a speaker. McCarthy agreed to lower that threshold to allow any one member to challenge his leadership bid as a condition of winning support for the job in January, setting the stage for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to do just that.
The entire House – Republicans and Democrats – vote for speaker, who would hold the position until early January 2025, unless they were deposed as well. Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries is expected to run against any Republican candidate nominated by the party conference, as he did in January.