The House of Representatives is facing an unprecedented crisis after Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted by his own party in a stunning coup on Tuesday.
The move, orchestrated by Rep. Matt Gaetz and other far-right Republicans, was a culmination of weeks of feuding and frustration over McCarthy’s leadership and his handling of the government funding bill, the debt ceiling, and the infrastructure package.
The question now is: who will replace McCarthy as the speaker of the House? And what does this mean for the future of the GOP and the country?
According to the House rules, the speaker is elected by a majority vote of the members present and voting.
This means that any candidate needs at least 218 votes to win, assuming all 435 members are present.
However, with the House divided between 222 Democrats and 213 Republicans, no single party has enough votes to elect a speaker on its own.
This creates a dilemma for both parties. The Democrats could try to elect their own speaker, such as Nancy Pelosi or Hakeem Jeffries, but they would need some Republican support to do so.
Alternatively, they could abstain from voting and let the Republicans sort out their own mess. But this could also backfire, as it would give more power to the extremist faction of the GOP that ousted McCarthy.
The Republicans, meanwhile, have to find a candidate who can unite their fractured party and win enough votes to become speaker.
The acting speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry, is a McCarthy ally who may not have enough support from the Gaetz-led rebels.
Other potential candidates include Rep. Steve Scalise, the minority whip; Rep. Liz Cheney, the former conference chair who was removed for criticizing former President Donald Trump; and Rep. Jim Jordan, a Trump loyalist and a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.
However, none of these candidates may be able to bridge the gap between the moderate and conservative wings of the party, or between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions.
Moreover, whoever becomes speaker will have to deal with the looming deadlines of funding the government, raising the debt ceiling, and passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill, all of which are opposed by many Republicans.
The House speaker is one of the most powerful positions in American politics, as they set the agenda for the chamber, appoint committee chairs, and influence legislation.
The speaker is also second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
Therefore, the outcome of this leadership crisis will have significant implications for the direction of the country and its democracy.