Jordan, Scalise locked in tight race to succeed McCarthy

On to the next.

Jockeying to be the next Speaker of the House is in full swing after Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) shocking ouster, with the two declared candidates — Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — lobbying for support and lawmakers beginning to pick sides in what is expected to be an intense race.

Endorsements are rolling in for each of the candidates, and both are making the rounds to various groups within the GOP conference to earn support.

A clear front-runner has yet to emerge. And some lawmakers are wondering if any candidate will be able to garner enough support to win the gavel.

“From having gone through the Speaker fight in January, I don’t think there was a path for Scalise to get the votes then and talking to colleagues I don’t think there will be a path now. And right now it’s not clear that Jim has a path either,” Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), who endorsed Jordan, told The Hill Thursday.

That could give way to a dark horse third option like Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee and a newcomer in Congress compared to the other two.

Hern has not officially entered the race and is working on contacting every member of the GOP conference before announcing his decision, according to a source familiar with his strategy. 

 “They don’t want the status quo, they don’t want somebody that’s been around 10, 15, 20 years, proceeding forward doing the same thing that we’ve seen time and time again,” Hern said on Newsmax Wednesday night.

The top task for any candidate is to win enough support from the slim GOP majority that can carry them to victory on the House floor.

“I think the most important thing is the vision that is cast that can unite the conference,” Davidson added. “The reality is, I’m not sure there’s any one person that everyone can trust. It’s who can put together a plan that everyone can buy into and say alright, I can get on board with doing that.”

Both Scalise and Jordan, in that context, think they are the right person for the job.

“You need someone who can unite the conference and I think just as importantly unite the conservative and Republican movement across this country, that’s what I think I can do, that’s why I’m running for the job,” Jordan told “Fox and Friends” Thursday.

“I have a proven track record of bringing together the diverse array of viewpoints within our Conference to build consensus where others thought it impossible,” Scalise wrote in his letter to colleagues announcing his bid.

The majority leader also has the benefit of years of leadership experience and a team around him familiar with it, has been a major fundraiser for members, and has longtime relationships across the conference. While he was diagnosed with blood cancer in August and is undergoing treatment, that is not stopping him from seeking the Speaker’s gavel — and raking in endorsements.

“We need a Speaker who will unite this conference and get everyone on the same page. That’s Steve Scalise,” Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) said on Fox Business.

Scalise has picked up backing from members hailing from the South and Midwest.

Jordan, meanwhile, is racking up support from fellow hard-line conservatives — and from the Buckeye State. At least five Ohio lawmakers have said they want Jordan to be the next Speaker.

Jordan brings a different flavor of leadership. He was the founding chairman of the tactically confrontational House Freedom Caucus and was instrumental in pushing out former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who has called Jordan a “legislative terrorist.” But after running against McCarthy for the House GOP’s top spot in 2018, Jordan became his ally and secured more power for the hard-line conservatives — including, eventually, his Judiciary chairmanship.

While both claim to be unifiers, they have to prove it to their colleagues first.

Jordan spoke Thursday to members of the Main Street Caucus, according to a source familiar with the discussion. The group’s members range from moderates in tough districts to Republicans in deep red ones who bill themselves as “pragmatic” conservatives. 

It indicates that Jordan is seeking to build support from those who face tough races in 2024, who might worry about whether he can cater to their interests and needs, despite his firebrand past. 

But a big issue for Main Street, as the group articulated in a statement Wednesday, is how to address the one-person “motion to vacate” threshold — the House rule that allows any single member to force a vote on ousting the Speaker, as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) did to McCarthy. That runs up against the demands of hard-line conservatives who pushed McCarthy to adopt a one-person threshold in January as a condition of supporting him for Speaker.

Jordan has indicated that whatever decision is made on the rule — which would require a House vote to change — it should be decided within the House GOP.

“If I’m Speaker, I’m not going to go to the Democrats and make that change, because they’re going to want some kind of other agreement on some other things,” Jordan said on Fox.

The campaigning comes ahead of a Tuesday candidate forum and a Wednesday vote in the GOP conference on a nominee for Speaker. That individual would go up on the House floor against Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), whom the Democratic caucus is planning to nominate for Speaker.

Those hoping to return to the business of the House quickly — doing work to avoid a government shutdown before the next deadline Nov. 17, for instance — hope that the conference will unite around a candidate during those closed-door meetings. 

Members, however, are not confident that will be the case.

“Hell no,” Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a close McCarthy ally, said Wednesday when asked if he is confident the group will coalesce around someone next week to avoid another protracted Speaker’s race.

In January, it took McCarthy 15 rounds to finally secure the gavel, a process that dragged on for four days.

“I think there’s scenarios where Patrick McHenry could be in this job for an extended period of time,” Graves added, referring to the Speaker pro tempore, who will preside over the chamber until a new Speaker is elected.

Davidson said having the process wrapped up next week will require “some divine intervention.”

“I hope that we can do it during the course of next week,” he said. “If we do it Tuesday night, I mean, I think it’ll take some divine intervention.”

Tags Jim Jordan Kevin Hern Kevin McCarthy Steve Scalise Warren Davidson