House nears third week without speaker as eight Republicans vie for gavel

A crowded field of Republicans are vying to earn the support of their conference to wield the gavel, throwing the chamber into even more uncertainty after three weeks without a speaker.

The conference is searching for a new speaker nominee after Rep. Jim Jordan on Friday became the latest to exit the race. The chamber has been without a speaker since House Republicans ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy earlier this month.

Eight House Republicans are running for the position, including GOP Whip Tom Emmer, who is endorsed by McCarthy. Emmer has moved to lock in support across the ideological and geographic spectrum in the conference, giving him what many House Republicans believe is an advantage, according to GOP sources. He could face an uphill battle, however, against allies of former President Donald Trump who have been quick to criticize Emmer for voting to certify the 2020 election.

The speaker hopefuls spent the weekend working the phones to win their conference’s support ahead of a candidate forum Monday evening and secret-ballot election Tuesday.

Emmer spoke with Trump by phone over the weekend, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, and Emmer touted his “strong working relationship” with the former president on social media Monday.

“Thank you, Mr. President,” Emmer posted on X, alongside a video clip of Trump saying he’s “always” gotten along with Emmer. “If my colleagues elect me Speaker of the House, I look forward to continuing our strong working relationship.”

Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, another candidate for speaker, said Monday that he also spoke with Trump about his bid.

“He called me and we had a polite conversation. I believe that the president is interested in having somebody he can work with, and I think I’m one of those people,” he told CNN’s Manu Raju, adding that he did not ask for Trump’s endorsement.

These are the other GOP representatives running for speaker:

  • Jack Bergman of Michigan, a retired 40-year veteran of the US Marines.

  • Byron Donalds of Florida, a second-term member of the far-right Freedom Caucus.

  • Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, chair of the conservative group known as the Republican Study Committee – which wields a large bloc of GOP members.

  • Mike Johnson of Louisiana, the vice chairman for the House Republican Conference.

  • Gary Palmer of Alabama, the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.

  • Austin Scott of Georgia, the seven-term ally of McCarthy who quickly dropped out of a last-minute challenge to Jordan last week.

Rep. Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania had also been in the running but dropped out of the race Monday evening.

Speaking to reporters, Meuser said, “I felt that it was in the best interest in the end.”

“We have great candidates, and I wrote up a plan of how to improve the speaker’s office – making it a members-first office, which in the end is a people’s first office – and a few of the candidates up there have adopted some of my ideas,” he said.

Frustrations and divisions have only intensified within the conference as Republicans search for a way to resolve the impasse. That, along with the GOP’s narrow majority, has made it increasingly unclear whether any candidate will be able to secure the 217 floor votes needed to win the gavel.

The House, meanwhile, remains in a state of paralysis amid the threat of a government shutdown next month and the Israel-Hamas war.

The government runs out of funding in less than a month, after narrowly avoiding a shutdown with a stopgap funding bill last month. A speaker will need to be involved in negotiations with the White House and the Senate, both of which are controlled by Democrats.

And there is momentum for a bill to give further aid to Israel’s war against Hamas. President Joe Biden has asked Congress for a $105 billion package that will include aid for Israel and Ukraine, which is said to be running out of munitions in its fight against Russia’s invasion.

The showdown over the speakership kicked off earlier this month when a bloc of hardline conservatives voted to oust McCarthy, a historic move that plunged the House into unprecedented territory. Then, in the aftermath of McCarthy’s ouster, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s speakership nomination met a swift downfall when the conference failed to come together on his bid.

On Friday, Republicans pushed Jordan out of the race after he failed to win the gavel for the third time in a floor vote earlier in the day.

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Melanie Zanona, Manu Raju and Zachary B. Wolf contributed to this story.

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