It’s on: The bare-knuckle battle for House GOP leadership spots begins

It’s on: The bare-knuckle battle for House GOP leadership spots begins

Kevin McCarthy’s expulsion from the speakership is sending ambitious Republicans into a scramble for position — with all rungs of the leadership ladder possibly up for grabs.

Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) are already launching bids for speaker, which leaves at least one senior House Republican eager to fill Scalise’s role as the No. 2 House Republican. Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) has started calling members to build support ahead of a likely run for majority leader, as POLITICO first reported.

Emmer’s current chief deputy whip, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), is expected to make a play for the majority whip role if it becomes open. Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) is also looking at entering that whip race, and it’s not yet clear whether No. 4 Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) would seek a different open spot or allow Reschenthaler to leapfrog the only woman in elected leadership.

Stefanik, who currently serves as GOP conference chair, hasn’t told members which role she would seek. But she has been phoning colleagues about the general leadership races — and some believe it is gauging support for a bid for a new slot.

It all adds up to a frantic crush with little time for GOP candidates to make their pitch to colleagues. Given that many House Republicans are still reeling after McCarthy’s public ejection by a small faction of their party on Tuesday, it’s very possible that the conference can’t reach a consensus on the speakership by next week as planned — leaving other top leadership spots in a similar limbo.

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), a McCarthy ally, observed “a lot of raw emotion” on Wednesday as he briefed reporters outside the office now held by acting speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.). He later added, in a subtle jab at McCarthy’s deputies, that “we would be making a huge mistake to simply come in and say yeah, hey, every Republican just moves up a rung.”

If Stefanik does leave the conference chair role, interested parties are already eyeing it. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) is seriously entertaining another leadership bid, according to a Republican with direct knowledge; some in the party are predicting he wants either conference chair or deputy whip.

Republicans have mostly left Washington after McCarthy’s fall, so GOP members seeking leadership positions will mostly resort to phone calls until the conference’s secret-ballot vote set for Oct. 11. Some action is continuing, however, with the House Freedom Caucus meeting on Wednesday morning and the Main Street Caucus on Tuesday night to discuss the upcoming speakership fight.

“It’s just making sure that we have the rules and procedures and policies that are going to recover our country moving forward,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) said as she left the Freedom Caucus meeting. She noted the group is not “narrowing down” the list of names for its preferred speaker candidate to “any one person.”

Later on Wednesday, the Texas GOP delegation held a lunch where Scalise, Jordan and a third potential speaker candidate — Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), who leads the Republican Study Committee — made their pitch for the party moving forward.

That position of speaker will be the most difficult of all to land. Not only will the winning candidate need to get a majority of the GOP conference, that person later has to win a public election on the House floor with only four votes to spare.

Any successful speakership bid, in other words, will require winning over at least half of McCarthy’s eight GOP defectors in the stunning Tuesday vote while also holding onto support from other, more centrist Republicans.

The battle between Scalise and Jordan, while just beginning to kick off, could get nasty in the coming days as the GOP conference must decide between two long-time figures in the party. And chief McCarthy antagonist Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has floated both names as possible contenders.

“I’ve had a lot of people reach out to us, asking me to do it,” Jordan told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday after POLITICO first reported his pursuit of a bid.

Meredith Lee Hill contributed. 

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