Emyr Ortiz / The Highlander

When Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was removed from his post on Oct. 3, supporters touted it as Congress getting “back on track,” and some predicted a speedy turnaround. Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee, who voted to remove McCarthy, declared, “We’ll be back to work Tuesday. And we will elect a speaker on Wednesday, I’m confident. We’ll have one ballot on the floor. And I believe that will pass.”  However, multiple weeks, three ballots later and with House Republicans abandoning their second nominee, Representative Jim Jordan, in a closed door vote, the future of the speakership is still unknown. 

In the immediate aftermath of McCarthy’s removal, two candidates, Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Steve Scalise of Louisiana quickly emerged as frontrunners for the speakership. On October 11th, in a closed door, secret-ballot election, House Republicans nominated Scalise, the House Majority Leader, 113-99. However, Scalise’s victory was short lived as hard-right Republicans refused to back his candidacy even after the nomination.This left Scalise’s prospects in a floor vote for the speakership, where 217 votes are needed to succeed, uncertain. One day after receiving the nomination, and facing continued resistance from the right, Scalise dropped out of the race. In speaking to reporters after withdrawing his candidacy, Scalise said ‘”If you look at over the last few weeks, if you look at where our conference is, there is still work to be done … There are still some people that have their own agendas.”

With Scalise out of the race, Jordan was nominated in a closed door Republican conference election 124-81 on the 13th. Representative Jordan, who was once branded a “legislative terrorist,” by former Speaker John Boehner and is now the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, was supported by many of those who had balked at Scalise. However, he faced considerable opposition from more moderate Republicans and institutionalists due to multiple reasons.  Even after an intense lobbying campaign that involved pressure from Jordan allies and local leaders, Jordan was unable to consolidate enough support to secure the Speakership during multiple votes on the House floor. After losing a 3rd floor vote 194-235 on Friday, losing support from previous ballots, Jordan was dropped as the Republican nominee for Speaker on Friday in a closed door GOP conference meeting. 

Amidst these events there has been talks of temporarily empowering the current acting Speaker of the House, Representative Patrick McHenry, with greater powers through a resolution. With a government funding deadline looming and Biden calling for aid to Israel and Ukraine, some have wanted to empower McHenry beyond his current role of overseeing Speakership votes. However, these plans have faced repeated pushback from multiple Republicans. Speaking of the resolution, Representative Vern Buchanan of Florida said, “Reading the room, this thing is dead.”

With the speakership candidate being in question for the 3rd time since McCarthy’s ouster, many more lawmakers are taking advantage of the opportunity to become Speaker. As of October 21st, more than a dozen Republicans had announced or were considering their candidacy for the speakership nomination. These range from House Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota to Representative Byron Donalds of Florida. Other Republicans declaring or considering a bid on Saturday included Republican Study Committee Chair Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, House Republican Conference Vice Chairman Mike Johnson of Louisiana, Jack Bergman of Michigan, Pete Sessions of Texas, and Austin Scott of Georgia. These contenders have until Tuesday, Oct. 24 to make their case and consolidate support, with a Republican Conference vote being scheduled for that day. 

However, some have voiced doubt as to if any in the new field are prepared to hold the Speakership. Among these is former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who said “On a very serious note, this is talking about the person third in line to the presidency. A lot of people here that might put their name in might not have the knowledge of what it takes.” He added, “I’m concerned about where we go from here.”