Who could replace Kevin McCarthy as the next US House speaker?

Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan from the Republican Party have already declared their candidacy for the role.

Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan
Steve Scalise (left) and Jim Jordan (right) are the first Republicans to officially announce that they will run for the position of speaker of the House of Representatives [Erin Scott/Reuters]

The United States House of Representatives has removed its speaker for the first time in the body’s 234-year history, and Republicans are already raising their hands to take over the role.

Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy was expelled from his role in a 216-210 vote on Tuesday evening.

Here is what we know about potential candidates who could succeed McCarthy as House speaker.

Who is the acting speaker?

Immediately after McCarthy was unseated, Republican Representative Patrick McHenry was appointed acting speaker. McHenry, a McCarthy ally, will serve as acting speaker for three legislative days.

Until a new speaker is elected, McHenry’s role is to exercise the necessary and appropriate authority of the speaker.

Republican Representative Kelly Armstrong said McHenry’s main task will be to “get us a new speaker”. Anything further, he said, would lead to his removal from the role.

How will the House decide who is the next speaker?

Next week, the Republicans and Democrats will informally nominate a candidate from each party and then the entire House will vote for the next speaker.

Representatives are not required to vote for the candidate their party nominated, but to become the speaker, a candidate must win the majority vote from House members who are present and voting.

The elected speaker will hold the position until early January 2025 unless they too are deposed.

INTERACTIVE - House of Representatives speaker structure graphic-1696400858
(Al Jazeera)

Who are the main contenders so far?

  • Jim Jordan from Ohio was the first Republican to announce his candidacy for speaker on Wednesday night. A vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, Jordan has led investigations of the Joe Biden administration. Jordan formed an alliance with McCarthy, which earned him some scepticism from hardliners. Moderates also see him as too conservative.
  • Steve Scalise also announced his bid to run for speaker through a letter on Wednesday. Since he is the House majority leader, his position will become vacant if he is elected. McCarthy’s allies are critical of Scalise, saying he did nothing to help him during the leadership challenge. Additionally, Scalise is battling cancer and faces questions about his physical ability to do the job, according to one Republican lawmaker who chose to remain anonymous. When he was asked if he was physically fit for the job, he responded, “I feel great.”
  • Kevin Hern has told reporters that several lawmakers approached him to consider running and suggested he would be open to it. He is the chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a study group for conservative Republicans.

Who else could contend for the role of House speaker?

  • Patrick McHenry: He is the chair of the House Financial Services Committee. As the temporary acting House speaker, he could possibly use this as an advantage to keep the post. However, it is unclear whether he wants the job.
  • Tom Emmer: He is the House Republican whip and headed the House Republicans’ campaign arm during the 2022 midterm elections when Republicans recaptured the House majority from Joe Biden’s Democrats.
  • Byron Donalds: He is the representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district and is gaining popularity in the Republican Party. In one round of the speaker election in January, he received 20 votes.
  • Tom Cole: He is a Republican veteran who holds a powerful position as chair of the House Rules Committee. Though he has not said he is interested in the job, he could gather support from Republicans who are seeking an alternative to a conservative speaker.
  • Hakeem Jeffries: The Democratic leader garnered more votes than McCarthy during 11 rounds of voting in the speaker’s election in January. While the Democrats are solidly behind Jeffries, the Republican majority will likely block a Democrat from taking the role.

Can Donald Trump become the next House speaker?

Republicans Troy Nehls and Greg Steube have advocated for making Trump the next House speaker. Under the US Constitution, the House speaker does not have to be a member of Congress. However, Trump may not be eligible since he is under four criminal indictments. House Republican rules state that a member of leadership must step aside if indicted.

Trump has said his focus is on the 2024 presidential election.

Why was McCarthy removed?

McCarthy was expelled from his role after far-right Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz launched an effort to remove him.

McCarthy was removed as a result of infighting within the Republican Party as hardliners were critical of McCarthy for collaborating with Democrats to get a stopgap bill passed.

Can McCarthy run for speaker again?

McCarthy can run for speaker again. But he announced on Tuesday night that he will not try to win back the gavel.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies