In a historic turn of events, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from his position, marking the first time a House speaker has been removed through a motion to vacate the chair. This move sets the stage for a high-stakes battle within the fractious Republican conference to determine who will succeed him.
McCarthy’s removal comes after months of struggling to balance the demands of the conservative House Freedom Caucus while also addressing critical issues like government funding. Following an extraordinary 216-210 vote, the office of the speaker was declared ‘vacant’ on Tuesday, leading to a closed-door meeting among House Republicans to discuss potential successors.
One prominent candidate for the role is Steve Scalise, who has long been considered a potential speaker and has been a rival to McCarthy, even while serving in McCarthy’s leadership team as the top Republican vote-counter. Scalise, who announced his battle with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, in August, is ideologically aligned with McCarthy and maintains the trust of some conservatives who lost faith in McCarthy. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, a key figure in McCarthy’s ouster, voiced support for Scalise despite his health challenges.
Another potential successor is House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, who is favored by a group of far-right members that played a role in the move to vacate the chair. Emmer previously ran the House GOP campaign arm, though the party underperformed expectations in the 2022 elections.
Elise Stefanik, the highest-ranking elected woman in the House GOP, is another contender. She initially criticized Donald Trump in 2016 following the release of the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape and his proposed Muslim ban. However, she later transformed into a fierce Trump loyalist and replaced Rep. Liz Cheney as the head of the GOP Conference.
Financial Services Chairman Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy advisor who temporarily assumed the role of Speaker Pro Tem after McCarthy’s removal, is also in the mix. McHenry chairs the powerful Financial Services Committee and played a pivotal role in McCarthy’s leadership struggles.
Several other names are circulating as potential successors, including Louisiana Rep. Garrett Graves, who advised McCarthy during his leadership challenges, and House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, known for his command of procedure and even-keeled temperament. Rep. Byron Donalds, a prominent black member of the Freedom Caucus and a Trump loyalist, is also mentioned.
Notably, a return to power by Kevin McCarthy himself is not on the table, as he exited the House chamber following his ouster, signaling the end of his leadership tenure. His departure marks a significant turning point in the ongoing political dynamics within the Republican Party.
Derek Chan – Editor