House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) faced a turbulent and short-lived tenure. Hardline Republicans, dissatisfied with his leadership, initially criticized his handling of debt ceiling negotiations with President Joe Biden. Despite a deal that raised the debt limit and capped spending, many conservatives felt it fell short of their fiscal goals.
Tensions escalated as McCarthy’s approach to government funding and the appropriations process further frustrated his party. Discontent grew, leading to calls for his removal. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a motion to vacate the speaker, citing various grievances, including McCarthy’s handling of issues like term limits and his failure to release the security tapes related to the January 6, 2021, Capitol incident.
In the end, eight Republicans and 208 Democrats voted to oust him, leading to the end of McCarthy’s speakership.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise was nominated, but he lacked the votes to win the gavel. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) seemed poised to step in, but ultimately he, too, lacked the votes to secure the position.
Eight other Republicans have thrown their hats into the ring, and there is no clear favorite.
Rep. Byron Donalds, currently in his second term in Congress, previously served in the Florida State Legislature. He has strong connections to former President Donald Trump and is a favored member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus. As one of only four Black House Republicans, Donalds is recognized for his effective communication skills. Most notably, Donalds has promised to release the footage of the January 6th incident if he wins the gavel.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), now in his fourth term in Congress, holds the position of House Republican vice conference chair. He has previously chaired the Republican Study Committee and currently serves on both the Judiciary and Armed Services committees. In a letter addressed to his colleagues on Saturday, Johnson highlighted seven key goals he would pursue if elected as Speaker, including restoring trust, championing individual members, and emphasizing the importance of effective messaging.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) is the longest-serving lawmaker to enter the race for Speaker so far, currently in his 13th term in Congress. He experienced a two-year hiatus after losing his re-election bid in 2018 but made a successful comeback by winning his 2020 race. Sessions previously served as the chairman of both the NRCC and the House Rules Committee. He currently has assignments on the Financial Services and Oversight committees.
Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK) had previously considered a run for the speakership following McCarthy’s departure but opted not to compete against Jordan or Scalise. He had a change of heart after Jordan withdrew his bid last week and released a statement noting, “We need a different type of leader who has a proven track record of success, which is why I’m running for Speaker of the House.” Hern is currently in his fourth term, holds a position on the influential Ways and Means Committee, and serves as the current chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), who served as the third-ranking Republican behind McCarthy and Scalise, is responsible for orchestrating Republican support for crucial legislation. Currently serving his fifth term, has McCarthy’s endorsement. and his previous role as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has allowed him to build extensive relationships within the party. Emmer faces opposition from some of former President Trump’s supporters due to his failure to vote against certifying the 2020 presidential election results.
Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), serving his seventh term, initially entered the race for Speaker to oppose Jim Jordan but lost with a vote of 81-124 in a secret ballot. He then threw his support behind the Judiciary chairman. However, with Jordan no longer in the running, Scott has decided to rejoin the race. Scott holds seats on the Agriculture, Armed Services, and Intelligence committees.
Two others are vying for the gavel but lack the momentum of the first six. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), the No. 5 Republican in the House, is the chair of the Republican Policy Committee. Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) spent decades in the Marines and is a retired Lieutenant of the Armed Services.
It’s a stage as crowded as the GOP presidential pool, and with the former President’s top pick of Jordan out of the picture, it’s anyone’s race to win. Trump now says he just wants to “stay above” the race but revealed that many of the candidates are seeking his endorsement. “I’ve spoken to just about all the candidates,” Trump noted. “There are quite a few of them, and they’re terrific people.”