In their first major meeting after a nearly week-long deliberation period since the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republicans talked a lot about the need to replace him and how to make that process smoother — but found little consensus.
The meeting, held a day before the speaker candidates were unveiled at the GOP convention to drum up supporters, was intended as more of an open discussion than a business meeting to set official party policy.
Still, members leaving the meeting in the basement of the U.S. Capitol on Monday night expressed differing opinions about how quickly they could select a speaker and who that speaker might be.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Republicans need to find a speaker by Wednesday, especially given the new conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“I said the world is watching what is happening and we need to come together and unite behind one speaker. And I think there’s general consensus that that’s what they want,” McCaul said.
But others were less sure.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said the party must somehow hold accountable the eight House Republicans who joined 208 Democrats in voting to oust McCarthy.
“I think what happened to Kevin McCarthy was wrong, and I think the people who wronged the American people are the ones who need to be held accountable,” she said.
“There is definitely frustration with these eight people, and there are quite a few members who said they are not ready to elect a speaker.”
Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), one of eight Republicans who voted with Democrats to oust McCarthy, said he and the seven other dissidents faced targeted but respectful criticism at the meeting.
Asked if he thought a new speaker would be chosen by Wednesday, Burchett said he did.
“I just think we will,” he said.
Only two candidates have officially filed for speaker’s post: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the second-highest-ranking Republican as House majority leader, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
But the picture became murkier on Monday after McCarthy, who said last week he would not run for the post again because it took him 15 tries to win last time, signaled he was ready to pitch again .
At a press conference to discuss Israel and Gaza, McCarthy was asked whether he would agree to the nomination. “The conference can decide,” he said.
The circumstances of McCarthy’s downfall have left some Republicans in the House embittered, both toward Democrats, who they say are behaving opportunistically at the expense of the House as an institution, and toward the eight GOP dissidents.
McCarthy remained popular within the conference, and the setting of Monday morning’s news conference seemed to remind wavering or undecided House Republicans that he was still available.
“There is a group that is still associated with Kevin McCarthy and would like to bring him back as a speaker. There are a number who support Jim Jordan. “There are a number who support Steve Scalise,” Greene said.
However, it is unlikely that McCarthy will make it back to the speaker’s chair unless enough of his eight opponents change their minds and support him. Burchett, for example, said he would not change his vote.