Republicans face crowded House speaker race as poll shows voters growing tired of chaos

The field to become the next speaker of the House swelled to nine Republican candidates Sunday as the GOP looks to end the weeks of chaotic intraparty squabbling.

House Republicans will meet privately Monday to debate the candidates in a forum, followed Tuesday by a secret ballot to pick a nominee.

The process will come in the wake of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan’s being forced to withdraw from the running after three failed floor votes and the GOP conference’s voting privately not to put the Ohio Republican forward again.

A USA TODAY/Suffolk University poll released Sunday showed that a majority of Americans, 67%, say the House should choose a speaker as soon as possible amid the Israel-Hamas war that’s broken out and a government funding deadline next month drawing near.  

The nine Republicans who are vying for speaker are Jack Bergman of Michigan, Byron Donalds of Florida, Tom Emmer of Minnesota, Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania, Gary Palmer of Alabama, Austin Scott of Georgia and Pete Sessions of Texas.

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted on Oct. 3, has endorsed Mr. Emmer, the majority whip.

SEE ALSO: Emmer, Donalds among 9 Republicans vying to be House speaker

“He knows how to do the job across the street, at the same time, helping us win the majority,” Mr. McCarthy said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” 

“He sets himself head and shoulders above all those others who want to run. We need to get him elected this week and move on and bring this not just party together but focus on what this country needs most,” he added.

The California Republican also levied criticism at his own party for its inability to coalesce around a single candidate after failed bids by Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Mr. Jordan.

“I just know this is not a time to play games,” Mr. McCarthy said. “This is embarrassing for the Republican Party. It’s embarrassing for the nation, and we need to look at one another and solve the problem.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, also called the saga “embarrassing” but said he is undecided on whom he will support.

“I want a speaker in the chair so we can move forward and cover my issues, my committee of war and peace,” Mr. McCaul said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s too dangerous right now. The world’s on fire. This is so dangerous what we’re doing. And most importantly, it’s embarrassing because it empowers and emboldens our adversaries.”

SEE ALSO: Liz Cheney points finger at Kevin McCarthy for House speaker turmoil

Moderate Republicans are pushing for a loyalty pledge among members to support whoever the eventual nominee is amid increased frustration with conservative hardliners who ousted Mr. McCarthy and who refused to back Mr. Scalise.

The Republican pushing that pledge, Rep. Mike Flood of Nebraska, told The Washington Times over the weekend that he and others are “getting to the point now where the rank and file, the ones that are always on the team, are sick of it.”

“We want to see a change,” Mr. Flood said. “And when you lose the people that sit quietly and want to be on the team … and we’re sick of being tossed around like pinballs in this whole situation, then watch us vote ‘present.’”

House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington revealed Sunday in a statement he would not run for speaker. 

Rather, he pitched a message of unity and vowed to back whichever candidate a plurality of the Republican Conference chooses.

“From my perspective, the real question for House Republicans isn’t, ‘Who will lead us as our next Speaker?’ but, rather, ‘Are we ready to be led as a team?’ The greatest threat to our conservative agenda isn’t the Democrats — it’s disunity,” Mr. Arrington said. 

“The American people are weary of our dysfunction. At some point, we have to reunite as a conference, refocus on our common cause, and get back in the fight for the future of our country,” he said.

Former Rep. Liz Cheney, Wyoming Republican, blamed Mr. McCarthy for his own demise as speaker and empowering his opponents by not combating former President Donald Trump. 

She said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Mr. McCarthy “[looked] the other way in the face of the kind of assault on our democracy that we have seen from Donald Trump and his allies in the House.”

Over the weekend, Mr. Sessions pitched himself as a unifier and touted his credentials as former chairman of House Republicans’ campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“When we work together, we’re very effective and we get our job done,” he said on Fox News. “We’re a little bit divided. It’s time to come together. I believe that I can do exactly that.”

Mr. Johnson, House Republican Conference vice chair, wrote in a letter to colleagues that the GOP majority is at a “critical juncture” and “must provide principled leadership.”

“It is our duty to chart a new path, and answer with clarity and conviction who we are, why we are here, and what we are fighting for,” he wrote. 

Mr. Emmer also wrote to colleagues, saying the “Conference remains at a crossroads and the deck is stacked against us.” 

“We have no choice but to fight like hell to hold on to our House majority and deliver on our conservative agenda,” Mr. Emmer said.

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