The stunning ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sets up a battle for succession with no clear choice about who will take over the fractious Republican conference.
McCarthy faced the historic result of the being the first House speaker to be removed subject to a motion to vacate the chair on Tuesday. He struggled for months to try to satisfy members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus while also funding the government.
After an extraordinary 216-210 vote the office of the speaker was declared ‘vacant’ on Tuesday. That set up a high stakes closed door meeting of the House Republican Conference. There are numerous options both inside and outside McCarthy’s leadership team.
Among those who could succeed former Speaker McCarthy are members of his leadership team: from left Tom Emmer, Elise Stefanik, and Steve Scalise
Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.)
Scalise has long been considered a potential speaker and a rival to McCarthy even while serving as a member of his leadership team and the top Republican vote-counter. He announced in August that he had a form of blood cancer, multiple myeloma, and was receiving treatment.
Although he isn’t far from McCarthy ideologically, some conservatives who lost faith in McCarthy say they maintain trust in McCarthy. Among them is Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who precipitated McCarthy’s ouster.
‘I am not going to pass over Steve Scalise just because he has blood cancer,’ Gaetz said on the eve of the vote.
‘I think the world of Steve Scalise,’ Gaetz said moments after McCarthy’s vote was gaveled down.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise gave an emphatic speech defending McCarthy before Tuesday’s vote
Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn)
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer has also been mentioned as a possible McCarthy successor.
He is the favorite of a group of far-right members who helped line up the move to vacate the chair. Emmer, 62, previously ran the House GOP campaign arm, including in 2022 when Republicans seized control but underperformed expectations.
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y.
Stefanik is the House GOP’s highest elected woman. She is among those who blasted Donald Trump in 2016 following the release of the infamous ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.
She also once criticized his proposed Muslim ban, calling it ‘not who we are as a country.’ That was the prelude to a transformation where Stefanik became a fierce Trump loyalist.
She lived up to that reputation when she ousted Trump nemesis former Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the GOP Conference.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) previously ran the party’s campaign arm. He is the choice by some conservatives who pushed out McCarthy
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.)
Financial Services Chairman Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) is a McCarthy advisor who helped him clear the hurdles to leadership during his January speaker’s race.
As soon as McCarthy was removed, McHenry was designated as temporary speaker, or Speaker Pro Tem.
It is a ceremonial role that will have him help oversee the election of a new speaker, a role he has also been mentioned for. He chairs the powerful Financial Services Committee.
The bespectacled Republican slammed down the gavel with force following his first action, sending the House into recess subject to the call of the chair.
Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Patrick McHenry now serves as Speaker Pro Tempore, and will preside over the election of a new speaker
A number of additional names are already circulating. Among them is Louisiana Rep. Garrett Graves (R-La.), who advised McCarthy during his leadership struggles and chaired his Elected Leadership Committee. Another is House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who is well regarded within the conference for both his command of procedure and even-keeled temper. He has advised the past several Republican speakers.
Also mentioned is Trump loyalist Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a prominent black member of the Freedom Caucus. His name was put in nomination in January in competition with McCarthy.
A return to power by McCarthy himself isn’t a possibility. He brushed by reporters as he exited the House chamber Tuesday. He battled Gaetz in the run-up to his ouster, telling rivals to ‘bring it on.’