Updated Oct 4, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Two top House Republicans emerge as early front-runners in speaker's race

jim jordan, kevin mccarthy, steve scalise

From left to right: Reps. Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy, and Steve Scalise in May 2022. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The two most likely candidates for House speaker —Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — both announced they were running as of Wednesday afternoon.

The big picture: The chamber made U.S. history yesterday when it voted to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker, setting off a scramble to replace him with no clear successor in sight.

  • Without a speaker, the House's core legislative functions grind to a halt — at a time when lawmakers need to pass yearly spending bills to avoid a government shutdown next month.

Zoom in: It might be tough for the GOP conference to turn down Scalise, 57, if he goes all-in for the job: He was badly wounded in the shooting at a House GOP baseball practice in 2017, and was diagnosed this summer with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer.

  • But the sources told Axios there are many questions about whether the grueling job suits Scalise right now.

Meanwhile, Jordan, 59, is a McCarthy loyalist and team player who has establishment ties — and was the founding chair of the hardline House Freedom Caucus.

  • But it's unclear whether Jordan's hardcore conservative brand could fit the realities of governing.

Reality check: The GOP had no firm Plan B for what would happen after removing McCarthy.

  • An outside GOP power broker texted that it's more like a buffet of plans B to Q: "Some are crazy, all are speculation."

The intrigue: Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), the chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, has emerged as a possible dark horse candidate.

  • Hern, like Jordan and Scalise, huddled with the Texas delegation at the Capitol on Wednesday but was circumspect about a run.
  • "People have come to me and said, 'based on your past experiences is that something you'd be looking at doing,' and I said, 'well I have to go talk to people to see if that's something members … want me to do,'" he told reporters.
  • House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas), however, said Hern made clear in the meeting he is running, saying the GOP has "three good candidates" for speaker.

State of play: The House will return Tuesday, with a leadership election the next day.

Go deeper: How Trump shadowed McCarthy's doomed speakership

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments.

Go deeper