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McCarthy Floats Return as Divided G.O.P. Prepares to Choose a Speaker


Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy floated the possibility on Monday that he might be open to reclaiming the post from which he was ousted less than a week ago, even as two other Republicans vied to replace him in a contest that has highlighted the party’s deep divisions.

With the House rudderless and paralyzed following Mr. McCarthy’s removal last week, the California Republican worked to project normalcy and leadership in the face of the war unfolding in Israel, after an invasion by the Palestinian militant group Hamas that has led to hundreds of deaths and the capture of scores of civilian Israeli hostages. He summoned reporters to the Capitol to lay out a plan to defend Israel and rescue American captives.

The appearance had all the trappings of the job he just lost; Mr. McCarthy spoke from behind a podium in the Rayburn Room, where the speaker often holds official ceremonies, and used the language of a party leader during a crisis.

“Now is the time for action,” he said, adding, “We must be there for our friend Israel.”

But Mr. McCarthy is no longer the speaker, and the event only underscored the disarray among House Republicans, who are set to gather on Tuesday to discuss whom to nominate as his successor. A party vote is scheduled for Wednesday, to be followed by a formal election on the floor.

The two leading contenders to replace Mr. McCarthy — Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, and Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the Judiciary Committee chairman — have been vying to shore up support, but the party is fractured.

And there was little doubt from Mr. McCarthy’s remarks that he remains angry and saddened by his removal at the hands of rebels in his party, and still believes he should have the post. He lamented how just 4 percent of his party’s members succeeded in effectively removing a speaker supported by 96 percent.

“Let’s be honest about our conference,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters. “Is our conference just going to elect somebody to throw them out in another 35 days?”

He singled out Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida and Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina, two of the defectors who are known for their frequent media appearances, condemning “a few individuals that love a camera more than they love the American public.”

The outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war has highlighted the dangers of a leaderless House. With the chamber under the control of a temporary speaker, lawmakers are questioning what power, if any, they have to take action as a legislative body, including approving additional aid for Israel.

Mr. McCarthy appeared to be capitalizing on those concerns. His plan to respond to the Hamas attacks on Israel included strengthening America’s borders and a campaign against antisemitism. He called for freezing any money for Iran, and condemned what he called a new “evil axis of Iran, Russia and China.”

But kicked out of his post, Mr. McCarthy noted that he was in no position to enact any plan.

“Unfortunately, the House can do nothing without a speaker,” he lamented.

Asked if he wanted to reclaim his gavel, Mr. McCarthy said that the decision was not up to him, and that he would support whatever his fellow Republicans wanted.

“I’ll allow the conference to make any decision,” he said.

In a reflection of the uncertainty roiling their conference, Republicans scheduled a closed-door listening session on Monday, returning to Washington on a federal holiday to meet in the House basement and hash out their disagreements.

That was to be followed on Tuesday evening by a candidate forum at which contenders for the speakership were expected to make their case. A closed-door vote of Republicans was scheduled for Wednesday morning to choose the party’s nominee. If Republicans can coalesce around a candidate, the House could hold a formal election as early as Wednesday afternoon, but given the rifts among G.O.P. lawmakers, the process could drag on.

Mr. McCarthy’s allies made clear that they believed reinstating him would be the best option.

“A lot of people believe Kevin McCarthy is the right person to lead us,” Representative Mike Lawler, Republican of New York, said on Monday at the Capitol.

Mr. Lawler said he was insisting that there be “accountability” for the eight Republicans who forced out Mr. McCarthy as speaker, joining Democrats in voting to remove him.

Mr. Gaetz and Ms. Mace fired back at their critics on the social media site X, formerly Twitter.

“If the former Speaker had spent as much time going after Chuck Schumer for not taking up our DoD military spending bill as he is attacking other Republicans, he wouldn’t be the former Speaker,” Ms. Mace wrote.



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