October 08, 2015, 06:34 pm
Seven Republicans who could be Speaker
By Cristina Marcos
House Republicans are in crisis mode as they scramble to find someone — anyone — who can lead their fractured conference.
After Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (Calif.) stunning withdrawal from the Speaker race Thursday, there’s no obvious candidate to succeed Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) as the top House Republican.
Boehner had originally planned to step down on Oct. 30, but that plan is now up in the air, with Republicans needing time to coalesce around a new candidate.
Once the dust settles, here are seven Republicans who could emerge as Speaker.
1. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
The 2012 vice presidential candidate issued a statement within minutes of McCarthy’s announcement to say he wouldn’t run for Speaker. But his name came up repeatedly when lawmakers were asked about potential Boehner successors.
Ryan is perhaps the only House Republican able to draw support from the entire GOP Conference, having solidified his reputation as a fiscal fighter during his years atop the Budget Committee.
But Ryan has said repeatedly that he wants to focus on his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. He also has young children, which would make the demanding travel schedule of the Speakership difficult.
Boehner allies and McCarthy are urging Ryan to change his mind, and multiple lawmakers, including Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), and Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), were seen buttonholing Ryan during House votes on Thursday.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the House Benghazi committee chairman, emphatically said “no” when asked if he would mount a Speaker bid. Friends of Gowdy tried to float him as a leadership candidate last week, only for the South Carolina Republican to rule it out hours later.
2. Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio)
The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus — a group that pushed for a new Speaker in the first place — has said repeatedly he’s not interested in a running for leadership.
One Freedom Caucus member suggested to The Hill, however, that Jordan could be persuaded. “In the right circumstances, Jim would probably step up and do it,” the lawmaker said.
But it’s unclear whether Jordan or any other conservative hardliner sympathetic to the Freedom Caucus could secure the 218 votes needed to win the Speakership.
“When you’re leading the revolution, you also upset a lot of people,” Freedom Caucus member Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said Wednesday. “I’ll be honest, I don’t know if any of our leading members could be elected right now.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who introduced the motion back in July that helped push Boehner out the door, said he’s not interested in running for Speaker, either.
Hensarling, another favorite among conservatives, also opted to forgo a leadership run after Boehner announced his resignation last month.
3. Rep. Daniel Webster (Fla.)
Webster, a former Florida state House Speaker, has the backing of the Freedom Caucus, which means he’d have at least 30 to 40 votes on the House floor.
But he remains a long shot: Webster won just 12 votes against Boehner during the Speaker ballot in January.
Webster acknowledged Thursday that he’s still an underdog.
“No, I don’t,” he said when asked if he thinks he’s the favorite for Speaker now. “Because I just think there are other factors here, and it will be hard to determine how that’s all going to play out.”
4. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah)
Chaffetz, the chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, said Thursday that McCarthy’s decision to drop out could offer him a chance to siphon votes previously committed to the majority leader.
But even Chaffetz acknowledged he might not be able to build a winning coalition.
“I’m not sure if I’m the right person,” Chaffetz said.
Although viewed by many of his colleagues as whip-smart and politically savvy, Chaffetz has also developed a reputation as something of a publicity hound.
Moreover, many Freedom Caucus members are wary of Chaffetz after he stripped Meadows of an Oversight subcommittee gavel earlier this year for a defection on a procedural vote. Chaffetz ultimately reinstated Meadows a few days later following pressure from the far right.
5. Lynn Westmoreland (Ga.)
Westmoreland, an ally of leadership and member of the Benghazi committee, moved toward throwing his hat in the ring Thursday in the hours after McCarthy dropped out.
“Rep. Westmoreland has expressed interest in running for Speaker of the House and is grateful for the support he’s received so far. He will be speaking with his family and spending time in prayer before he makes a final decision,” Westmoreland spokeswoman Leigh Claffey said.
6. Rep. Tom Price (Ga.)
Price has shown a clear interest in entering the House GOP leadership hierarchy.
The Budget Committee chairman had been battling House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) for the majority leader spot, under the assumption that McCarthy would become Speaker. But Scalise had told supporters that he’d already locked up enough votes to win that race.
House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) had initially positioned herself as a contender in the majority leader race, but ultimately decided to forgo a bid. Should she run for the gavel, McMorris Rodgers could make history by becoming the first female Republican Speaker.
7. John Boehner (Ohio)
It sounds like a plot from a rom-com: After trying out dozens of alternatives, House Republicans might have to stick with the man they had all along. Boehner said he “will serve as Speaker until the House votes to elect a new Speaker.”
“Some of my friends in the Freedom Caucus are in essence forcing Boehner to stay on as Speaker,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).
Other lawmakers offered the idea of a “caretaker Speaker” who would only stay on through 2016, such as retiring Rep. John Kline (Minn.), chairman of the Education and the Workforce panel, or Rep. Candice Miller (Mich.), the Administration Committee chairwoman. Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.), another name floated, said he’d support someone like Ryan or Kline. And Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), who chairs the House GOP’s campaign arm, didn’t rule out an interim term as Speaker.
But not all Republicans like the idea of a temporary, lame-duck Speaker without leadership experience.
“If we’re going to have a caretaker Speaker, let it be John Boehner,” said Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.).