Oct 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House Republicans worry about speaker gridlock after closed-door meeting

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Multiple members emerged from the House GOP's speaker forum on Tuesday saying they don't see either candidate being any closer to having the votes needed to secure the gavel on the floor.

Driving the news: "No one is close to 217," Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) said after Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La) and Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) pitched members on why they believe they should be the next speaker.

  • Some members emerged saying they weren't fully satisfied with the answers provided by the candidates on certain issues, with one member projecting Wednesday's vote to be a "clusterf***."

Inside the room: Scalise placed a heavy emphasis on the border while Jordan focused on government funding, one GOP lawmaker told Axios.

  • Both candidates said a stopgap funding bill will likely be necessary to keep the government open, two GOP lawmakers told Axios. A stopgap last month was part of why conservative hardliners ousted McCarthy.
  • "The thing that drives me nuts the most is we all admit that we've got to make deals. And it seems like that the far-right guys are mad at McCarthy for making deals but both these guys admitted that they're gonna have to negotiate deals and get the best they can get," one senior lawmaker said.
  • "They laid out their vision for how we move forward. I think they have similar visions and, you know, people are going to make a decision," said Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.).

Between the lines: Several conservatives have publicly said they're worried Scalise's health would be an obstacle for him as speaker, while two moderate members raised concerns over Jordan's ability to help front-liners.

  • "He [Jordan] said it wasn't his job to campaign for everyone in his earlier roles. As speaker it will be," one GOP lawmaker said. "His biggest weakness is he has done very little for purple district GOP members while Steve has been there from day #1."
  • "Scalise has actually gone to every district, he's been to mine a few times, he's been to pretty much everyone's districts. He campaigns, he raises money and Jordan hasn't done that until recent," another House Republican told Axios.
  • One GOP lawmaker told Axios that Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) questioned how Jordan would help moderates, noting he rejected three requests to help her in a difficult general election race. Jordan replied that he helped members of Judiciary but didn't feel it was his responsibility to help other rank and file members during that time.

The other side: "Look, Jim didn't support me and my primary and he and I have voted differently on many, many issues … and we split a county together in Ohio and he has never once uttered a bad word and has helped me with with many of these counties, and I'll tell you, and that's that goes to the measure of who he is. He's a team player," Rep. Mike Carey (R-Ohio) told Axios.

What they're saying: Some House Republicans have overarching frustrations on the lack of answers from both candidates as to what was promised to members for support following the deal made between hardliners and McCarthy in January.

  • "I was very frustrated that it couldn't be answered when asked what you have promised in exchange for support — that was asked and not answered. And I mean, that's pretty telling considering how many members have been public with their demands," another member said.
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