House paralyzed as divided Republicans search for new leader after McCarthy’s ouster

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Kevin McCarthy is out as House speaker. Here’s what happens next

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is no longer speaker of the House, following a revolt led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Here’s what happens next.

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The stunning removal of Kevin McCarthy as speaker has left the House adrift as Republicans struggle to bring order to their fractured majority and begin the difficult and potentially prolonged process of uniting around a new leader.

For years, the top level of California politics seemed frozen, with entrenched leaders in both parties. In one week, the last vestiges of that order are upended.

Oct. 3, 2023

The House convened briefly Wednesday and then went into recess, with North Carolina Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, the caretaker speaker pro tempore, serving in the job for the foreseeable future, but with very little power. Other Republicans left Washington, awaiting the next steps in the process.

The House will try to elect a speaker as soon as next week. The timing is nowhere near certain as Republicans line up for their chance at the gavel amid the bitter divisions that sparked the chaos.


House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) is in line for the post, but he faced an immediate challenge as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the Judiciary Committee chairman and a favorite of the GOP’s right flank, quickly announced his own candidacy. Others are expected to emerge in the coming days.

McCarthy addressed reporters in an hourlong press conference after being ousted as speaker of the House on Tuesday. “I’m an optimist because I don’t see any other way,” he said.

Oct. 3, 2023

McCarthy, who has yet to weigh in on who should be his successor, said Wednesday that he’s good friends with both men.

He added that “both would do great in the job.”

Many doubt that anyone can get the 217 votes needed — two House seats are vacant — to become speaker. Electing McCarthy in January took 15 excruciating rounds even though he was the consensus choice of the GOP conference.


House Republicans plan to meet Tuesday evening at the Capitol for a first round of internal party voting.

“I think the circus stuff needs to happen behind closed doors,” said Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.).

It is shaping up to be a wide-open battle just as Congress faces a new deadline to fund the government by mid-November. Work on that legislation is on hold in the House due to the vacancy in the speaker’s office, creating the potential for extended paralysis.


Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called it a “dangerous situation.”

At the White House, President Biden said the American people still expected the government to get its work done in a timely fashion.

McCarthy’s ouster was sparked by his work with Democrats to keep the government open and avoid a shutdown, and the Democratic president said: “We need to stop seeing each other as enemies.”

Electing a new speaker risks inflaming the divisions that have plagued House Republicans all year, particularly if lawmakers make new demands before pledging support to a candidate.

Scalise has long been viewed as a potential speaker-in-waiting. He has been revered as a survivor since he was shot in the hip at a congressional baseball team practice in 2017. But Scalise is also being treated for a form of blood cancer, forcing him away from the Capitol at times.

In a letter to colleagues asking for their support, Scalise acknowledged the challenges ahead for him and Republicans, but noted he had overcome adversity before.

“This next chapter won’t be easy, but I know what it takes to fight and I am prepared for the battles that lie ahead,” he wrote.


Jordan made his pitch by emphasizing his oversight work and aspirations. He echoed Scalise’s call for unity during “divided times.”

“The problems we face are challenging, but ... not insurmountable,” he said.

Jordan and Scalise are expected to be joined in the race by at least one other Republican: Oklahoma’s Rep. Kevin Hern, chair of the Republican Study Committee, the largest GOP caucus in the House.

All three men, and Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota, spoke at a luncheon of the Texas congressional delegation, which represents the largest state bloc of GOP members in the House.

“I think you have to have a different set of skill sets ... I spent 35 years in business working at some of the largest corporations in the world,” Hern said as he left the meeting. “Strife is something that’s common when you have people working together, and finding common solutions for it takes experience.”

But some Republicans, including Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, say lawmakers should look outside the Capitol for their next speaker, as the Constitution allows, and draft former President Trump.

Trump told reporters covering a lawsuit against him at a New York courthouse Wednesday that he would “do whatever it is to help” Republicans in the speakership race, but that he was focused “totally” on his presidential campaign.


“If I can help them during the process, I would do it. But we have some great people in the Republican Party that could do a great job as speaker,” he said.

The more immediate challenge for the House GOP is how to move past the extraordinary strife that has recently plagued their conference.

The raw feelings were reportedly apparent at a closed-door meeting Tuesday evening as members unloaded their anger at the eight Republicans who had voted with Democrats to depose McCarthy.

According to a Republican in the room who was granted anonymity to discuss the private session, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) pointed at the lawmakers who voted against McCarthy and said, “I’ve never been part of a worse team.”