WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House has been without a leader for more than a week after majority Republicans threw out Speaker Kevin McCarthy and refused to rally around his No. 2, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise.
Republicans were trying to regroup after Scalise abruptly withdrew his name from the running on Thursday evening, just one day after he had been nominated by the conference in a closed-door meeting. Scalise did not back anyone else, but many Republicans say they are supporting House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, who narrowly lost the nomination to Scalise on Wednesday.
It’s still unclear if Jordan can get the votes, so the path forward is uncertain. Another candidate, Georgia Rep. Austin Scott, jumped into the race Friday just before Republicans met to choose a new nominee. Scott has been critical of those who have voted to oust McCarthy.
Many Republicans in the conference were feeling frustration and an increased urgency to find a successor to McCarthy as a new war in Israel rages abroad and government funding expires in five weeks.
What to know about the road ahead as House Republicans search for the next speaker:
McCarthy, R-Calif., was suddenly and unexpectedly removed as speaker last week after just nine months on the job, leaving the House essentially leaderless with North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry in a caretaker role.
The days since have been chaos.
Scalise withdrew after it was clear he would lose the speakership vote on the floor, as McCarthy did 14 times in January before he was narrowly elected speaker on the 15th ballot.
If neither Jordan nor Scott can corral the votes, other candidates could come forward. Some Republicans have suggested McCarthy could stage a longshot bid to return to the post. Others have suggested an unexpected candidate for speaker will ultimately prevail.
Once the Republican conference nominates a speaker — again — a House floor vote would be the final step.
The speaker is normally elected every two years, in January, when the House organizes for a new session. A new election can be held if the speaker dies, resigns or is removed from office. This is the first time an election is being held after the removal of a speaker.
Once the House is in a quorum — meaning the minimum number of members are present to proceed — each party puts a name into nomination for speaker. Democrats will nominate their current leader, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, and vote for him.
House members are seated during the speakership vote. It’s one of the few times that lawmakers are all seated around the chamber.
Once the roll call for speaker begins, members are called on individually and each shouts out their choice. The candidate to become speaker needs a majority of the votes from House members who are present and voting. The House will vote as many times as necessary until someone reaches that threshold.
The main complication for House Republicans is their narrow 221-212 majority. Any nominee must have near full support from Republicans, and the GOP conference is often split.
Additionally, lawmakers can vote for anyone they want to on the floor. While it has been the tradition for the speaker candidate to be a member of the House, it is not required. In January, a few Republican members even called out votes for former President Donald Trump, taking votes from McCarthy.
Historically, the magical number to become speaker has been 218 out of the 435 members of the House. But many previous speakers, including McCarthy and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, have ascended to the dais with fewer votes than that because some members voted present instead of calling out a name. Every lawmaker voting “present” lowers the overall tally needed to reach a majority.
There are two vacancies in the 435-seat House right now, which means it would take 217 votes to become speaker if every lawmaker voted for a nominee.
Once a speaker candidate wins a majority of the vote on the floor, the House clerk announces that a speaker has been elected.
A bipartisan committee, usually consisting of members from the home state of the chosen candidate, will then escort the speaker-elect to the chair on the dais where the oath of office is administered. The new speaker then traditionally gives a short speech.
Outgoing speakers have usually joined their successors at the speaker’s chair, where the gavel is passed as a nod to the peaceful transition of power. It’s unclear whether McCarthy would do that or whether the task would fall to McHenry.
As soon as a speaker is sworn in, he or she is immediately in charge. A plaque with their name is hastily put above the door of the spacious speaker’s office next to the Rotunda and the person’s belongings are moved in.
McCarthy was photographed pointing at his own name above the door within hours of his election in January. This week, Capitol workers were moving furniture out of the speaker’s office.
The new leader’s first moves will depend on who is elected. Many Republicans have said they want to pass a bipartisan resolution making clear that the House stands with Israel in its war with Hamas — something they can’t do without an official leader.
The speaker will also have to quickly figure out a way to unite Republicans and keep the government open before a mid-November deadline.