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Meet the far-right Republicans looking to replace Kevin McCarthy as House speaker

Reps. Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Kevin Hern are all vying for the job of leading the unruly House GOP.

By Emily Singer - October 06, 2023
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Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., confer during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. . (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, left, and Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., confer during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022. . (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The race to replace Kevin McCarthy is on after the California Republican was unceremoniously ousted from the role of House speaker on Oct. 3 after just nine months.

Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Kevin Hern of Oklahoma have all said they will seek the position, which includes the difficult task of keeping the GOP’s narrow and unruly majority in line not only to pass the Republican agenda, but also to keep the federal government up and running.

All three men hold positions far to the right of the country as a whole, including opposing abortion rightsLGBTQ rights, and any gun reforms. All three signed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court that supported the Texas attorney general’s attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia. They also voted on Jan. 6, 2021, to overturn the results of the 2020 election — even after a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump carried out a violent and deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Here’s a look at who these men are, who supports them, and what their election as House speaker could mean for the country.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)

Scalise currently serves as the No. 2 in the House Republican leadership, making him what Politico dubbed the “heir apparent” for the speakership.

Scalise is a conservative. He voted multiple times for a nationwide abortion ban at 20 weeks’ gestation. He also voted against a bipartisan gun reform bill that passed Congress in 2022, even though Scalise himself survived a gunshot wound in 2017 after a gunman opened fire at a congressional Republican baseball practice.

Scalise is already starting to build support among House Republicans.

But Scalise also has baggage. In 2002, he gave a speech to the European Unity and Rights Organization, a white supremacist group that was led by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. According to the New York Times, a Republican political operative said Scalise once described himself as “Duke without the baggage.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)

Jordan, who currently serves as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, announced on Wednesday that he is running for speaker. He made a name for himself in Congress as a right-wing agitator whom former Republican Speaker John Boehner dubbed a “political terrorist.”

“I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart – never building anything, never putting anything together,” Boehner, who himself was ousted from his role as speaker by a right-wing insurgency, said of Jordan in 2021.

Jordan is a vocal opponent of LGBTQ rights. He co-sponsored a bill in 2015 that would have banned same-sex marriage in the United States. In 2016, he gave a ticket to the State of the Union address at the Capitol to Kim Davis, the former Kentucky clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples after same-sex marriage was declared legal nationwide. And in 2022, Jordan led the GOP opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act, which repealed the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Jordan is a vocal Trump supporter and ally who has helped defend the former president by promoting Trump’s baseless conspiracy theories and threatening to investigate those who have probed Trump’s alleged misdoings.

He currently chairs the Weaponization of the Federal Government Select Subcommittee, which Republicans created in January to fight back against investigations into Trump, which have led to 91 criminal indictments.

Jordan already has the public support of a number of House Republicans. However, Politico reported that vulnerable Republicans in districts President Joe Biden carried in 2020 are wary of a Jordan speakership. Given House Republicans’ narrow majority, that is a major barrier to Jordan’s speakership hopes.

Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK)

Hern was only elected to Congress in 2018, making him less experienced than the two other speaker contenders.

However, since that time, he has risen in the ranks and now chairs the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative lawmakers that, according to the group, wants to “limit government, strengthen our national defense, boost America’s economy, preserve traditional values and balance our budget.”

The RSC released a budget in June that would make cuts to Social Security by raising the minimum retirement age for receiving benefits. The budget also said that the group supported the Supreme Court’s reversal of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, calling it “a historic victory in the effort to defend innocent life and to return to the Constitution as it was written.” It called for passage of a nationwide abortion ban at six weeks’ gestation, before many people even know they’re pregnant.

It’s unclear whether Hern has a viable chance at the speakership. However, Hern did receive a handful of votes for speaker back in January when Republicans took 15 rounds of voting to finally come out with McCarthy as speaker.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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