Hours before they are expected to move forward with a nominee for chairman, Republicans in the House of Representatives have no idea who will emerge as their next leader.
They heard from the two men who stepped forward Tuesday night to replace Kevin McCarthy as speaker in a question-and-answer forum.
Both Jim Jordan, chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, and Steve Scalise, the House’s No. 2 Republican, have received support from rank-and-file members.
The candidates breathed a sigh of relief after Kevin McCarthy discouraged his allies from throwing his name in the hat – which would have further complicated the race.
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., confirmed to DailyMail.com that he had heard from the former speaker asking him not to nominate McCarthy.
“He wanted to run this process without him being involved, see if any of these candidates could come to a consensus,” he said. “I don’t think they will.”
Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the House’s No. 2 Republican, is running for chairman
Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, is running against Scalise for speaker
He said he didn’t think either candidate would be the next speaker. “I don’t think we’ve heard from the speaker yet.”
The Republicans must first vote internally among themselves in a secret ballot. This will happen on Wednesday morning at 10am
Whichever candidate wins the conference majority will have to oppose the Democratic candidate, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, in the House of Representatives to be elected speaker.
With only a four-vote majority, Republicans need to be nearly unanimous to get their candidate through the House of Representatives.
Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., also left the meeting because he was unsure the House would have a speaker tomorrow. “It will take more than a day to get this done.”
But Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., one of eight Republicans who voted with McCarthy to oust Democrats last week, had a more optimistic outlook.
“I think so,” he told DailyMail.com when asked whether he thought either candidate could achieve a majority in the House of Representatives tomorrow. He declined to say who he supported.
Scalise, who is battling blood cancer and is running for speaker, left the meeting saying he was casting himself as a “unifier” within the conference. “People want to see us back on track,” he said.
Scalise, as a current member of the Republican leadership team, has seemingly gained traction among establishment Republicans, while Jordan is popular with the right wing of the conference.
A significant number of Jordan supporters have not committed to supporting Scalise if he ultimately becomes the candidate who receives the most votes within the conference.
Rep. Dan Bishop, a McCarthy foe who threatened to endorse him but ultimately didn’t, is now backing Jordan. He did not rule out supporting Scalise, but said he did not believe the majority leader had a “crystal clear plan” to guide the conference through an uphill spending battle.
“Some of (my concerns) about Scalise are so obvious that I’m not going to say them,” Bishop told DailyMail.com. “But do we really think that this institute works so well that we should just move up to the next one?”
“If you think Congress and Republicans in Congress have done a fantastic job for 20 years, that would make sense,” Bishop said. “If you think there are shortcomings, then maybe not.”
Both Scalise and Jordan conceded that they would have to introduce a continuing resolution (CR) – a bill to expand government funding at fiscal year 2023 levels and avoid a government shutdown while pursuing a longer-term spending plan to formulate.
CRs are deeply disliked by CRs, especially on the right flank, and prompted McCarthy’s ouster.
Kevin McCarthy told his allies not to nominate him for speaker
But an emerging consensus among Republicans was that they wanted to correct a lack of transparency and honesty they found under McCarthy’s leadership.
“We’ve heard nothing but backroom deals and promises made and then kept,” said Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla. She said Jordan was the only candidate who said he would not keep any backroom promises.
She also predicted that the speaker’s race could continue indefinitely.
“I don’t know if we’ll have a speaker by the end of tomorrow, I don’t know if we’ll have a speaker by the end of this week,” she told reporters. “I just don’t think there is a candidate at the moment who gets the lion’s share of support.”
And without an elected speaker of the House of Representatives, the House of Representatives cannot move forward with other legislative priorities — namely passing spending legislation to prevent a government shutdown next month and aid to replenish Israel’s defense capabilities amid Hamas attacks.