Why Republicans Need to ‘Read the Room’ and Elect a New Speaker of the House as Soon as Possible

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Updated October 13, 2023 at 4:45pm ET

History was made last week when the House of Representatives voted 216 to 210 to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the role of Speaker of the House. Eight Republicans joined 208 Democrats to oust McCarthy.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) was named speaker pro tempore until a new speaker is chosen, and the GOP appeared to get a step closer to choosing a new leader on Wednesday by nominating House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) in a closed-door, secret-ballot election. After failing to gain the support of the full Republican conference, Scalise dropped out the race on Thursday night.

On Thursday’s show, Megyn was joined by the hosts of Ruthless – Comfortably Smug, Michael Duncan, and John Ashbrook – to discuss Scalise’s nomination and what comes next.

Speaker Scalise?

Last week, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) acted to force a vote on a motion to vacate the office of the speaker and a total of eight Republicans – Gaetz, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona, Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, and Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana – joined Democrats to oust McCarthy during a roll call vote the following day. 

Since then, Scalise and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) emerged as the frontrunners to replace McCarthy. On Wednesday, the House Majority Leader narrowly defeated Jordan in a closed-door election 113 to 99 to secure the Republican nomination for House Speaker. But the speaker race was anything but decided.

Republicans have 221 votes in the chamber and Scalise would have needed 217 votes in order to win the vote on the House floor. Several GOP congressmen – like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) – suggested they would not support Scalise for various reasons.

Around 8pm on Thursday, Scalise confirmed to the media that he was dropping his bid for speaker just a day after his nomination. “I just shared with my colleagues that I’m withdrawing my name as candidate for the speaker designee,” he said. “Our conference still has to come together and is not there. There are still some people that have their own agendas. And it was very clear we have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs.”

Republicans held another private meeting on Friday morning in the wake of Scalise’s decision, where Jordan confirmed he was re-entering the race for speaker. After a closed-door vote, he secured the nomination by a 124 to 81 vote over Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA). It remains unclear if he can coalesce enough support to win a full floor vote. Meanwhile, Democrats continue to back House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).

What Comes Next

Given what we’d heard from the GOP caucus, it was clear any momentum Scalise may have had leading into the nomination vote had faded. “It seems like since then… the inertia sort of stopped a little,” Duncan said. “Now you’re hearing people talking about maybe McHenry, or maybe [Majority Whip Rep.] Tom Emmer [R-MN], or, obviously, Jordan was also in the race, so it’s sort of unclear.”

Regardless, Comfortably Smug said Republicans are wasting precious time by leaving the seat vacant. “The most critical thing is to get a speaker and get the conference united,” he explained. “If Republicans had a singular voice to attack the [Biden] administration, we’d have a strong position. That’s what needs to be done.”

Duncan agreed. “I just wish Republicans get their act together,” he concluded. “With all this crazy stuff happening in the world, it feels like such small ball to be bickering amongst ourselves… Read the room and get your act together.”

You can check out Megyn’s full interview with Ruthless by tuning in to episode 646 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.