5 Republicans who may run to replace ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy—and inherit leadership of a slim and unruly majority


After a handful of conservative hardliners ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Tuesday, Republicans have to decide who to turn to next to try and manage their slim and unruly majority and lead the House.

A number of current GOP leaders could emerge in coming days although at this point they remain loyal to McCarthy and opposed to any efforts to remove him.

McCarthy allies and critics alike worry there might not be another lawmaker who can win enough support from the conference to take over, leaving the House effectively unable to operate. McCarthy could also try to reclaim the speakership in an election that could follow a motion to vacate.

Here are possible contenders for the top job:

Rep. Steve Scalise (La.): 

As the majority leader, the affable lawmaker from Louisiana is the second-ranking Republican and so, theoretically, he’d be first in line to replace McCarthy. Scalise has a more conservative profile than McCarthy, potentially helping him win over Freedom Caucus and other conservative members who never felt ideologically in sync with the Californian. He announced in August that he has a blood cancer known as multiple myeloma and was undergoing treatment.He returned to the Capitol last month and said his treatment was going well. Aside from health concerns, some Republicans also might not want to replace one establishment figure with another atop the conference.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the far-right lawmaker who led the push to oust McCarthy, has floated Scalise as a possible replacement. He said the leader shouldn’t be passed over for speaker because of his health issues.

Rep. Tom Emmer (Minn.): 

The former hockey player and GOP whip is now the conference’s third-ranking member, so, like Scalise, it makes sense that he would be in the mix. As the two-time chair of the GOP’s national House campaign arm, he has relationships with about two dozen Republicans he helped elect, and as whip he has been charged with building bridges across the conference, so he has ties with all factions. But he might also face criticism for the GOP’s relatively weak midterm gains last year – a problem that left them with such a tenuous majority in the first place.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.): 

Another current leader, Stefanik is the GOP’s fourth-in-command and also likely to be in the mix. Once seen as a moderate New Yorker, the Harvard-educated Stefanik in recent years has remade herself as a full-throated Donald Trump loyalist, to the point where she knocked former Rep. Liz Cheney from leadership because of Cheney’s criticisms of the former president. Stefanik would be the first female Republican to lead the House. Some conservatives, though, might be suspicious of her recent ideological conversion.

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio): 

Jordan is probably the most prominent and visible Trump ally in the House, a former Freedom Caucus leader who chairs the powerful Judiciary Committee. He led the defense of Trump during the former president’s first impeachment, and is now a driving force behind the push to impeach President Joe Biden. He’s one of the few figures who might actually please the party’s restive far right. But swing-district Republicans would almost certainly be wary of such a hard right turn.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) noted that Jordan has been a supporter of McCarthy and has softened his reputation he gained in previous years for being a bomb- thrower. “Today, he’s a very effective chairman who understands the nature of the leadership of Speaker McCarthy has been a leadership of inclusion,” said Issa.

Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.):

A dark horse might be Cole, who is the embodiment of an old school member of Congress: a cigar-smoking institutionalist close with leadership and an appropriator who has managed to navigate the chamber over 20 years. He’s a former political staffer and now chairs the powerful Rules Committee. He’d potentially be a figure of stability, but conservatives wouldn’t likely see him as an agent of change.

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