Can anyone do this job? That’s the question the Republican conference is left with today after its conservative rebels successfully caught the car and forced out Kevin McCarthy without an obvious replacement. But members were quick to start throwing out names, while McCarthy and others suggested the next speaker should not face the same one-vote threshold for a removal vote in order to give them more room to operate. They’ll reconvene next Tuesday to figure out what to do next. In the meantime, here’s an incomplete list of some top options.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. McCarthy’s longtime deputy is the most-discussed option and Punchbowl reports he’s already calling around to gauge his support. He is widely admired for his courage after being wounded by a gunman at Congressional baseball practice, and his name came up frequently during the extended speaker’s race in January. Majority Whip Tom Emmer, another potential speaker, sounded like he might support him on Tuesday night while chief rebel Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. told reporters Scalise would be one of several acceptable options. Scalise is currently battling blood cancer, but said he’s responded well to treatment and told CNN on Tuesday night he’d be physically able to serve. He’s also part of the same leadership team that triggered the conservative uprising, however, and it’s not immediately obvious why he wouldn’t run into the same problems as McCarhty.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. Jordan may be the crowd favorite among conservatives, despite his close relationship with McCarthy. His long record as a partisan bulldog and spirited performance defending Donald Trump during the former president’s first impeachment landed him a plum gig as chair of the Judiciary Committee, where he has led what was expected to be a high-profile investigation into the “weaponization of government.” (It’s been eclipsed more or less by the GOP’s impeachment inquiry). Mixed results as an investigator aside, he might be a consensus option who can draw together the party’s warring factions, and is already talking to allies about a candidacy. He’s also already earning early endorsements from big names like Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind. and Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla. The Republican Study Committee chair quickly started gauging interest in his candidacy Tuesday night. One of the wealthiest members of the House, Hern earned his fortune running a network of McDonald’s franchises in his home state. Since being elected in 2018, he’s quickly risen to the head of the RSC, the conservative ideas factory whose members count as the House GOP’s single largest faction. In short, he’s a successful business owner with impeccable ideological credentials. One potential controversy: His businesses benefited from a last-minute change to the Paycheck Protection Program he pushed for that made franchises eligible for the program. He did, however, sell off the last of his McEmpire in 2021.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., who voted to remove McCarthy, named the New York Republican who chairs the House GOP conference as one potential option. “We have a very deep bench, I don’t think that’s going to be the problem,” he said on CNN. The key facts to know about Stefanik: In 2019, she transformed from a staid, upstate moderate to one of Donald Trump’s fiercest devotees in Congress. Also, she’s excellent at raising money, a talent Republicans will need with McCarthy gone.
Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas. The House Budget Committee chair was named by a few members on Tuesday as a possible replacement speaker. His fiscal conservatism makes him popular on the party’s right, but for better or worse, he’s had a frosty relationship with McCarthy that kept him sidelined on major issues supposedly in his purview (while Congress has been trying to hash out a high-stakes budget deal for next year, he’s been focused on crafting a largely symbolic, 10-year balanced budget resolution).
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn. Gaetz also named the House Majority whip on his personal list of acceptable speakers, which makes him another potential fusion option who could bring together mainline and conservative Republicans. But again, he already seems to be throwing his support behind Scalise.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. Former Speaker John Boehner predicted years ago that House Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry would become speaker one day — and now he is. The newly minted Speaker Pro Tempore is known for his affable relationships across the conference as much as his signature bowtie, making him an attractive fallback choice (though his role negotiating the debt ceiling deal loathed by the party’s hard right might be a dealbreaker). So far, he’s already making his mark as acting speaker: On Tuesday night he ordered Pelosi to depart her Capitol hideaway office so he could use it.