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These nine Republicans are competing to be next House speaker

Contenders split on temporary spending bill that fueled McCarthy’s ouster

Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., watches then-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., discuss election results that gave Republicans a narrow majority on Nov. 8, 2022.
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., watches then-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., discuss election results that gave Republicans a narrow majority on Nov. 8, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Nine Republicans — from the party’s No. 3 leader to an up-and-coming conservative in his second term — are seeking to become the next House speaker, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., announced shortly after a noon deadline to get in the race passed Sunday.

The exact timing of a vote in the chamber is unclear: Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., told reporters Friday that his goal was to have a candidate on the floor Tuesday and elect a speaker by the end of the week. The nine contenders will meet with Republican colleagues behind closed doors Monday night to make their pitches ahead of a closed conference vote to pick a nominee Tuesday morning.

But Republicans have already seen two previous nominees in the past three weeks — Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio — drop out after being unable to secure the 217 votes needed on the floor if every member is present and votes for someone.

Hours before Sunday’s deadline, former Speaker Kevin McCarthy said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the bitter squabbling over the speaker’s post is “embarrassing for the Republican Party [and] embarrassing for the nation.” McCarthy, R-Calif., was removed from the top spot Oct. 3 after eight disgruntled conservative hardliners joined every Democrat in voting to declare the speaker’s office vacant.

McCarthy also defended posting for a vote a temporary spending bill that kept the government funded through Nov. 17, a measure that inflamed critics in his conference and fueled the move to oust him. 

On that vote, the nine candidates vying to succeed McCarthy were split. Reps. Jack Bergman, Tom Emmer, Dan Meuser, Austin Scott and Pete Sessions voted for the continuing resolution to keep the government open while Reps. Kevin Hern, Mike Johnson and Gary Palmer opposed it. Rep. Byron Donalds did not vote.

Generally, the nine candidates have been reliable supporters of the party’s position on legislation, with their average annual CQ Roll Call party unity scores ranging from 94 percent to 99 percent. The score measures how often a member votes with their party’s majority when majorities of the two parties are on opposite sides. 

The scores cover the member’s entire congressional career, with the longest-serving candidate, Sessions, going back to the 1990s.

One issue that cost Jordan support last week was his role in trying to overturn the results of President Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election. Of the nine candidates seeking the gavel, all voted to reject electors from Pennsylvania and Arizona in January 2021 except Emmer and Scott.

In 2020, Trump beat Joe Biden in all nine of the candidates’ districts, with his narrowest margin, 17.6 points, coming in Emmer’s 6th District in Minnesota and his largest, 36.5 points, coming in Meuser’s 9th District in central Pennsylvania.

Here are the Republicans seeking to be speaker:

Bergman, Michigan’s 1st District

First elected in 2016, Bergman is a retired Marine lieutenant general who has focused largely on military issues during his time in Congress. He said his background will help him navigate the various factions in the GOP conference. “We need a Speaker who is willing to step up, go on the offensive and make the tough calls when it matters most,’’ he said in a letter to colleagues.

Donalds, Florida’s 19th District

Donalds has only been in Congress since 2021, but he has already emerged as a star on the right. A member of the House Freedom Caucus, he received votes as a protest candidate for speaker during both January’s drawn out battle that ultimately led to McCarthy’s victory and the most recent quest by Jordan to win the gavel.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., right, and Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, listen to Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., at a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” on July 12. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Emmer, Minnesota’s 6th District

McCarthy has thrown his support behind Emmer, the majority whip and third-ranking member of the conference. But Emmer has drawn Trump’s wrath for not objecting to the certification of the 2020 election. A lawyer and former college hockey player currently in his fifth term, Emmer chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee last cycle, when the GOP flipped nine seats and took a narrow majority. He is pitching himself as a unity candidate who will foster a culture of teamwork, communication and respect.

Hern, Oklahoma’s 1st District

Hern is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest bloc of House conservatives. A McDonald’s franchise-owner-turned-lawmaker, Hern is serving his third full term. He weighed running for speaker two weeks ago when the position first became open, but opted against it. Hern said the House GOP “must unify and do it fast” and that he’s spoken to every member of the conference over the past few weeks.

Johnson, Louisiana’s 4th District

A lawyer and occasional talk radio host in his fourth term, Johnson is the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and the current vice chairman of the House Republican Conference. In a statement announcing his candidacy, Johnson said he would work to restore trust, engage members and grow the GOP majority.

Meuser, Pennsylvania’s 9th District

Meuser, a former executive of a rehabilitation equipment manufacturer who also served as Pennsylvania’s revenue secretary, has been in Congress since 2019. He told CNN last week that he would bring a business perspective to the speaker’s job.

Palmer, Alabama’s 6th District

Palmer came to Congress in 2015 after years of experience in conservative think tanks. He holds a similar role today as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, the House GOP’s advisory panel that acts like a think tank for legislation. He serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Scott, Georgia’s 8th District

Scott, a senior member of the House Armed Services and Agriculture committees, ran against Jordan in an internal speaker election but Jordan won the conference’s nomination on Oct. 13 in a 124-81 vote. He’s now running again. “I supported and voted for Rep. Jim Jordan to be the Speaker of the House,’’ Scott said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Now that he has withdrawn I am running again.” Scott was first elected in 2010 after serving for more than a decade in the Georgia legislature.

Sessions, Texas’ 17th District

Sessions is the sole Texan in the race after colleagues Jodey C. Arrington, chairman of the Budget Committee, and Roger Williams, chairman of the Small Business Committee, decided not to run. A former chairman of the Rules Committee who had 22 years of service when he lost a reelection bid in 2018, Sessions won a seat in a different district in 2020. He announced his candidacy Friday by citing his experience in House leadership, including being chairman of the NRCC when the party picked up 63 seats in 2010. He said on X that he could unite the conference, and “return to regular order.”