As Republicans deliberate to choose a new leader to succeed McCarthy, experts say next speaker will not have it easy.

Washington, DC – The next speaker of the United States House of Representatives will face a gruelling task: maintaining near unanimous support among a divided Republican caucus while reaching agreements with Democrats to fund the government.

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy found out the hard way that the two jobs can be at odds with one another. When he struck a deal with Democrats to temporarily fund the government on Saturday, he sparked a Republican backlash that culminated in his removal from the speakership position.

The Republicans have a thin majority in the House, so the same small faction of conservatives — led by Congressman Matt Gaetz — that toppled McCarthy can also remove his eventual successor. That has instilled an atmosphere of uncertainty moving forward.

“There’s a fear that they will just continue to do this to any speaker. And obviously, that creates a really chaotic environment where the House can’t consider bills,” said Rachel Blum, a professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma.

With that threat hanging over the next speaker, experts say the House and the US government more broadly are facing the possibility of chronic dysfunction in the months ahead.

Kevin McCarthy, standing behind a podium, speaks to a ring of reporters in a wood-lined room in the Capitol. He is in mid-gesture, lifting a finger into the air.
Kevin McCarthy addresses reporters after being booted out of his position as speaker of the House of Representatives on October 3 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

The removal

McCarthy, a California conservative, was removed in a 216-210 vote on Tuesday, with the entire Democratic caucus joining eight Republicans to remove him.

Now, House Republicans are privately deliberating to choose the next speaker, with Patrick McHenry serving as the acting leader of the chamber.

Jim Jordan, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and former head of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, has announced his candidacy for the role. So has Steve Scalise, the House majority leader.

Whoever wins will need to appease Gaetz and his fellow disruptors in the Republican caucus while running a functioning chamber.

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