A battle royale for the House Speaker’s position is boiling within the walls of the legislature, as moderate Republicans hesitate about the conservative politics of their two main contenders. This internal struggle has been sparked by the sudden ousting of Kevin McCarthy during a momentous floor vote this week.
In the labyrinth of political maneuvering, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise from Louisiana and House Judiciary Chairman, Jim Jordan from Ohio, have positioned themselves as the forerunners. The duo has been courting their more centrist colleagues behind the scenes, promising to prioritize their reelection campaigns and restore stability in the deeply divided conference.
Both candidates have wooed the weakly-represented New York Republicans, who, due to their vulnerability in the House, are considered a valuable catch for whoever manages to secure their support. Scalise has arranged virtual meetings with these GOP lawmakers and a subgroup of moderate Republicans. Jordan also did his part by presenting his arguments to the group.
New York’s GOP representative Marc Molinaro says although he hasn’t vouched for a candidate yet, the candidates must prove they can understand and represent the voices of members like him. He questions if Scalise and Jordan can step up to this challenge.
Simultaneously, Jordan turned his wooing practices to another key group – moderate members previously loyal to McCarthy. Despite what’s known as a lukewarm relationship between McCarthy and Scalise over the years, McCarthy has decided to remain neutral in this race.
Florida Rep. Carlos Gimenez, who claims to toe the line of center-right politics, believes Jordan could sway him. Commending Jordan’s vocal support for McCarthy, Gimenez said, “and you know what? That carries a lot of weight.”
Adding to the political fervor, President Donald Trump endorsed Jordan as a “great Speaker of the House” via a social media post. Although this support might wind up the conservatives, the moderates aren’t likely to be swayed.
With the potential for a drawn-out floor race, coupled with apprehensions of getting adequate support from Republicans, many members are holding their cards close to their chest. Some hope a wildcard candidate may emerge and break the status quo.
A request from the moderates forms the crux of this issue; they demand assurance that the government will not close mid-November. They also seek to change the rules to prevent single members from toppling a Speaker, as was done successfully by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.
Members of the House are concerned that the current speaker election process is riddled with obstacles. An internal squabble between hardliners and moderates over the candidacy of Scalise and Jordan complicates matters further.
A moderate Republican openly expressed their disinterest in supporting Jordan. Opposition to his policy positions, particularly the impeachment inquiry against Biden, has intensified division. His dismissal of extra funding for Ukraine and voting against a stopgap funding bill is also a point of concern for many Republicans. However, GOP moderates appreciate the efforts Scalise has made toward the Republican bloc.
Consequently, some moderate Republicans are contemplating collective demands, hinting at a possible voting bloc to counter the hardliners that toppled McCarthy.
During a meeting of the Main Street Caucus on Thursday, Jordan assured his commitment to protect and ideologically safeguard the moderates. As the co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, Jordan carries significant influence. Rep. Nick LaLota, one of the vulnerable New York Republicans, praised this fact during the meeting, yet he himself has yet not endorsed any candidate.
Intimate discussions with these New York Republicans reveal Jordan’s commitment to the issues they hold dear, positioning himself as a bridge to rejoin the divided conference. However, Scalise is leveraging his extensive campaigning efforts, unique experience, fundraising capabilities and institutional education as his strengths for the race.
Significant challenges lie ahead for both leaders. However, diligence, tact, and a willingness to represent the voices of all members of the conference might tip the scales in their favor.
The GOP conference plans to meet in person on Monday evening and hold a candidate forum on Tuesday. Depending on the outcomes, elections for the new speaker could take place as early as Wednesday on the House floor. The candidates will require over half the votes from the vast GOP Conference and then from the full House to triumph. Molinaro summarizes this uphill battle as a “very steep climb,” but adds credence by saying it “ought to be” this way.