As a result of this week’s stunning resignation of Kevin McCarthy, which left the House of Representatives without a Speaker and increased the degree of acrimony in Washington, time is running out for Republicans on Capitol Hill to pick a new leader.
The historic vote exposed long-simmering tensions within the Republican party and highlighted concerns about who will lead it moving ahead during a period of intense disagreement over issues including how to finance the federal government and whether to support additional US aid to Ukraine. Additionally, it highlighted how difficult it is to govern when Republicans hold a tenuous majority in the House.
A simple majority of the 435-member House, or at least 218 votes, are required to install a new Speaker. Given the tremendous animosity among House Republicans, that will be a difficult task.
Democrats will virtually surely refuse to support a Republican, so any replacement will also need to win over at least a few of the eight Republican rebels who voted against McCarthy.
Uncertainty surrounds the election cycle for the Speaker. Following McCarthy’s resignation, Patrick McHenry, the House’s interim leader and Speaker pro tempore, ordered a break in proceedings. Members have been informed that no votes are anticipated until at least next week.
Jim Jordan of Ohio and Steve Scalise of Louisiana have already declared their candidacies, and Kevin Hern of Oklahoma is also thinking about running.
Hardline Republican House members have offered the absurd notion that former President Donald Trump run for office, most notably Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Although every Speaker has been an elected member of Congress, the US Constitution does not specifically state that they must be.
In an interview with reporters on Wednesday at a New York courthouse where he is on trial for civil fraud, Trump dodged questions about a potential presidential candidacy, though he did not completely rule it out.
“A lot of people have been calling me about Speaker. All I can say is: we will do whatever is best for the country, and for the Republican party,” said Trump, the undisputed frontrunner in a crowded field of Republicans vying for the party’s presidential nomination in 2024. He added that his focus was “totally” on running for president. “If I can help them during the process, I would do it. But we have some great people in the Republican party that could do a great job as Speaker.”