Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise Announce Bids for Speaker as Republican Leadership Scramble Begins

Barely 24 hours after Kevin McCarthy’s unprecedented ouster at the hands of House Democrats and their 8 Republican collaborators, the battle for the gavel has begun.


House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) both jumped in the race for speaker on Wednesday. Barely 24 hours after Kevin McCarthy’s unprecedented ouster at the hands of House Democrats and their 8 Republican collaborators, the battle for the gavel has begun.

  • Scalise, Jordan, and Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, didn’t waste any time kicking off their bids. The three candidates have barely one week to whip votes and secure support before Republicans are set to vote for McCarthy’s replacement on Wednesday.
  • Scalise has steadily moved up the leadership ladder since his 2014 election as Majority Whip. The Majority Leader became nationally known – and earned tremendous goodwill with his colleagues – nearly died in 2017 after being severely wounded by a deranged ex-Bernie Sanders volunteer during the congressional baseball shooting.
  • Scalise’s health could become an issue in the race. He is currently under treatment for a form of blood cancer, and several House Republicans told National Review that his diagnosis was giving some McCarthy allies pause. A Scalise ally downplayed those concerns to NRO and said his wife and doctors all agree he’s healthy enough to run.
  • Jordan’s run for speaker continues his evolution from backbench bomb-thrower into a skilled operator. Once a thorn in John Boehner’s side, he became a key McCarthy ally. McCarthy staffers are quietly working to help Jordan behind-the-scenes, although it’s unclear if their efforts are blessed by McCarthy.
  • Jordan is expected to gain support from the hard-right flank of the caucus but could run into trouble with the moderates. One moderate Republican told Axios “He has a ceiling” as his candidacy is a “non-starter” for roughly 15-20 moderates who could even vote to sink his nomination on the floor should he win the conference vote.
  • Hern, who leads the largest group of conservative House Republicans, has not officially announced but told a meeting of the Texas GOP delegation that he plans to run.
  • The Speaker of the House is the only congressional leader who must be elected by a majority of the chamber. Even if Scalise or Jordan win the conference vote, they’d still need to secure 218 votes on the House floor to become Speaker.
  • The Democrat collaborators, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), have made it clear they want to preserve the motion to vacate that took down McCarthy at its current threshold, but other House Republicans like Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) have declared changing the rule to be a condition to get their vote for Speaker. How any wannabe McCarthy successor can thread that needle and secure 218 votes is unclear at this juncture.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • “What the changes to the leadership team look like remain unclear, with multiple lawmakers noting that all candidates looking to be speaker will have difficulties getting the votes needed to secure the gavel. Other names are expected to emerge in coming days, with two members speculating that House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) may look to climb the leadership ladder.” (Juliegrace Brufke for Axios)
  • “Both men also have faced scrutiny of their past. Mr. Scalise apologized in 2014 for having spoken in 2002 at a gathering of white nationalists, and a political journalist said that he had once described himself to her as “David Duke without the baggage,” an apparent reference to the former Ku Klux Klan leader. Mr. Jordan has denied accusations that he turned a blind eye to complaints of sexual abuse committed by a doctor at Ohio State University decades ago when he was an assistant wrestling coach there.” (Carl Hulse and Luke Broadwater for the New York Times)
  • “Gaetz, who has long irritated colleagues and has been fundraising off his effort to take down McCarthy, is perhaps poised to take the most arrows from his colleagues. Sources said they wouldn’t be surprised to see the issue of whether to eject Gaetz from conference raised at their next official meeting, where someone could make a motion to do so. Admittance into the Republican conference is a privilege, not a right. But to kick someone out, it would take a two-thirds majority to succeed. ‘In my opinion, yes,’ Rep. Mike Lawler, a freshman from New York, said of expelling Gaetz from the House GOP Conference, calling his conduct ‘disgraceful.’” (Melanie Zanona and Manu Raju for CNN)


  • “The vote to oust Kevin McCarthy as House speaker took only about an hour. But it was just the latest act in a rebellion among conservative lawmakers and voters that has been unfolding for 13 years—one that has promoted and then discarded the past three Republican speakers.” (Aaron Zitner for the Wall Street Journal)
  • “There is no more comfortable racket in today’s conservative movement than being permanently “anti-establishment.” Building things and running things is hard work. Posturing yourself as forever in opposition to whoever is in power in your own movement is easy. It’s like being a permanent teenager, always surly and complaining about authority, never having to actually make dinner and pay the mortgage.” – (Dan McLaughlin for National Review)
  • “House Speaker Donald Trump? Now that there’s an opening, a handful of House Republicans are calling for it and the former president is both publicly and privately toying with the idea… While the speaker of the House doesn’t technically have to be a sitting member of Congress, having a non-member fill the role — let alone a former president — would be unprecedented. Moreover, there are House rules in place restricting those with felony indictments from serving in the role.” (Ryan King for the New York Post)


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© Dominic Moore, 2023