House Republicans left their lunch meeting Friday with armfuls of leftover pizza but one fewer Speaker nominee than they started the week with and no sense of a viable path forward.
After numerous heated discussions and a third failed vote on his Speaker bid that morning, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio lost the confidence of his Republican colleagues, with 112 of them voting against him on a secret ballot. As stone-faced lawmakers exited the meeting trailed by staffers who batted away eager press, few seemed to be willing to predict who could win the Speakership or when anyone would be permanently installed in that role.
It’s been 17 days since former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the position by a small band of Republicans unhappy with his leadership. In that time, House Republicans have seriously considered and rejected both Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jordan for the position. In the narrowly-split House, a Speaker elected only by Republicans can spare only four “no” votes from their own party. While a majority of the caucus had backed Jordan at an earlier closed-door meeting, he was unable to draw the near-unanimous backing from Republicans he needed in a floor vote. As the effort to replace McCarthy has dragged on, there’s a growing fear among lawmakers that no one can draw that much support from such a bitterly-divided caucus.
Adding to the frustration of many at the Capitol was what the House is not addressing as it remains leaderless, particularly the $105 billion aid package President Joe Biden officially requested on Friday, most of it for funding for Ukraine and Israel.
House Republicans will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Monday for a candidate forum followed by an election process at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, according to Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry. He added that holding a floor vote on Tuesday “would be the goal” and that committees are simultaneously working with the administration on national security issues.
“The reason why I made that decision is we need space and time for candidates to talk to other members,” McHenry said.
Several potential candidates are expected to take advantage of that time. Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, who previously lost a conference vote to Jordan, quietly walked out of Friday’s meeting and confirmed he would be running again. Reps. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, Jack Bergman of Michigan, and Pete Sessions of Texas quickly announced that they are running as well. Majority Whip Tom Emmer, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana are all making calls to drum up support, while Reps. Mark Green of Tennessee, Jodey Arrington of Texas, and Roger Williams of Texas are also considering running, according to multiple outlets.
Punchbowl News reported late Thursday afternoon that McCarthy is backing Emmer, a former National Republican Congressional Committee chair. Earlier in the month, as Scalise seemed likely to be the next Speaker, Emmer launched a bid to replace him as majority leader that drew strong pushback from Trump allies, who believe he has not been sufficiently supportive of Trump in the past.
One name not likely in the mix is McHenry, who made clear he has no interest in the position, despite some Republicans and Democrats openly discussing his temporarily taking over the job earlier this week.
“It’s my goal to be talking to you at this time next Friday as chairman of the Financial Services Committee,” McHenry said, referring to his title before being thrust into the role of Speaker Pro Tem.
After addressing the press for just two minutes, McHenry ignored questions about his potential future as Speaker, hurrying through a crowd of tourists away from the reporters chasing him, and finally sprinting safely upstairs and out of sight.
“Guys,” former Speaker Kevin McCarthy said with exasperation when asked if he’d get back in the race, dodging the question. “We are in a very bad position as a party,” he added, blaming the eight Republicans who ousted him and suggesting that some of the people now getting in the race might not know what they’re getting into.
Many other Republicans walked out of the meeting appearing frustrated, exhausted, or enraged.
“These holdouts are responsible for Congress not working right now!” Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado exclaimed as she left.
Some sounded more hopeful than others that the conference was finally on the path to resolving the crisis.
“We have a lot of great Republicans that make their case,” said retiring Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, who said she wished Republicans had decided to keep working over the weekend to get closer to making a decision. “But I tell you, we have a lot of tough cookies in that conference. And you know, iron sharpens iron.”