At least 10 GOP lawmakers make bid for U.S. House speaker

By: , and - October 22, 2023 6:59 pm

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

A growing field of contenders for House speaker has assembled after Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio fell short of the 217 votes needed for the chamber’s top job three times last week. At least 10 GOP lawmakers have said they would run.

Former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is surrounded by staff, security and journalists as he walks to the House chamber ahead of a vote at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 3, 2023 in Washington, D.C., in which he would be removed from his post. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The GOP-controlled House has not had a speaker since Oct. 3 when a majority voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan, who had been mulling a speaker bid last week, confirmed Friday afternoon that his “hat is in the ring.”

“And I feel confident I can win the votes where others could not. I have no special interests to serve; I’m only in this to do what’s best for our Nation and to steady the ship for the 118th Congress,” he wrote on X.

Other Republicans interested in the speakership are: U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) and Roger Williams (R-Texas).

A press release from Bergman’s office touted his candidacy “to save the House from further dysfunction.”

“The regular functioning of the federal government can’t wait on useless infighting and arguments,” Bergman said. “What matters right now is choosing a Speaker in order to make sure that our government —and particularly our military — is funded, and that both our homeland and our critical allies are secure in this time of crisis.”

Bergman, a retired lieutenant general in the Marine Corps., was first elected in 2016 to represent Michigan’s sprawling 1st Congressional District spanning the Upper Peninsula and a swath of the northern Lower Peninsula. He visited Rhode Island on Sept. 11 to stump for 1st Congressional District Republican nominee Gerry Leonard.

“What we need right now is a Speaker who has experience leading and can put ego aside to work together for the American people,” Bergman said in a statement. “We need a leader who shuns permanent power and recognizes the current crisis of leadership. I’m ready to serve. Together we can end the deadlock, and win the vote.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) is shown at a House Judiciary Committee markup of Articles of Impeachment against President Donald Trump on Dec. 12, 2019. (Jonathan Newton-Pool/Getty Images)

Another contender from Louisiana

Like Jordan, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana received the House Republican Conference’s nomination for speaker, but Scalise pulled out of the race once it became evident he didn’t have the needed floor votes.

Johnson, who has represented Louisiana’s 4th District in the northwestern part of the state since 2016, is counted among the most conservative House members. He supported an effort in court to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election. He was also the author of a federal “don’t say gay” bill to ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity at any federally funded institution. Parents have no right to sexually transition a child, Johnson has said, although he has been a booster for “parental rights” to remove authority from education leaders.

Johnson currently serves as vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, one of seven GOP leadership positions in the chamber. He is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and chairs its new Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government.

“Until yesterday, I had never contacted one person about this, and I have never before aspired to the office,” Johnson said in a statement. “However, after much prayer and deliberation, I am stepping forward now. Although I feel a great responsibility for our cause and I have a clear vision and plan for how to lead us through these unprecedented challenges.”

In his announcement, Johnson said President Joe Biden is incapable of leading the country and the U.S. Senate is unwilling. Explaining why he decided to seek the speakership now, he said he “demurred … out of admiration” for McCarthy, Scalise, Jordan and Scott.

“It is incumbent upon us now to decide upon a consensus candidate who can serve as a trusted caretaker and a good steward of the gavel,” Johnson said. “We must govern well, and expand our majority next year.”

U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds, (R-Fla.), speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 9, 2023. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

Florida Rep. Byron Donalds gathers support

At least three members of the Florida GOP congressional delegation say that they are backing Rep. Byron Donalds for speaker. Donalds is one of the few Black Republicans in the U.S. House.

Donalds had been supporting Jordan for speaker. When asked on Thursday if he would consider being speaker if Jordan got out of the race, Donalds said: “People float my name for a lot of things. Right now I’m here to do a lot of things. We have to fund the government.”

The Naples resident became nationally known in January, when he emerged for a couple of days as an alternative candidate for U.S. speaker before House Republicans ultimately elected Kevin McCarthy of California to the post on the 15th ballot.

“I supported @Jim Jordan as our next Speaker,” wrote Central Florida Republican Cory Mills on X. “Unfortunately my votes for him on the floor and in conference to remain Speaker designate was not enough. I now support @ByronDonalds for the next Speaker of the House.”

South Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — who had voted for former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in protest this week — also says that he is now with Team Donalds.

“@ByronDonalds is an honorable leader and respected by the entire conference,” he wrote on X. “That is why it is a privilege to endorse Byron for speaker.”

And Sarasota County’s Vern Buchanan voted for Donalds on both the second and third ballots on Thursday and Friday.

“I’ve served with Byron, he’s a conservative champion, and I hope my colleagues will consider his name as we look for a way forward,” Buchanan said on Thursday. “It’s about time Florida had a seat at the table.”

Donalds has served in the U.S. House since January 2021. Prior to that he served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2016-2020.

U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) leaves a closed-door House Republican meeting at the U.S. Capitol on October 20, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House Republican caucus is searching for a new Speaker of the House candidate after Rep. Jim Jordan failed on three separate attempts to achieve a majority of votes in the House of Representatives. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Pennsylvania’s Meuser announces speaker bid Sunday

Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-9th District) announced Sunday he was submitting his name for consideration as Speaker of the House.

Meuser was Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Revenue under then-Gov. Tom Corbett before he was elected to the House in 2018, and has been a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump. Meuser was among the 147 lawmakers who voted to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss.

In his statement on Sunday, Meuser praised former speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) for his “conservative victories,” and said Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who both made unsuccessful bids for the job, “have epitomized honor, patriotism and leadership, and for that we are grateful.”

“Our current challenge as a Conference is not policy or fundraising but unity,” Meuser said in his statement. “In selecting our next Speaker, we are really choosing to unite and be a team and collectively be stewards of America’s best interests. We also need a Speaker who understands they must continue to earn the respect and trust of the vast majority if not all of the Conference.”

Meuser first mentioned he was considering seeking the role in an Oct. 17 interview with National Review, after the first of three votes on Jordan failed. “I’m not gonna let this kindergarten continue. I’ll do it,” Meuser said.

Meuser added in his statement on Sunday that the GOP needed to “adapt and strategize to ensure that every voice is truly represented. Amid the prevailing challenges of Washington, we have an obligation to transition from being a mere piece in the puzzle to becoming leaders of the solution.”

He added that he would seek to “echo the business principle of ‘checking one’s ego at the door,’” adding it was “crucial that we build trust with the American people so as we are in prime position to win the House and the Senate, and the all-important White House in 2024.”

Endorsements for Michigan’s Bergman

Bergman won the endorsements from several Michigan GOP lawmakers: U.S. Reps. John James, John Moolenaar, Tim Walberg, and Lisa McClain.

“General Jack Bergman is the leader best suited to right the ship of the Republican conference and help lead the House through the 118th Congress,” the Michigan Republicans said in a statement. “He isn’t seeking a long-term leadership post but is willing to help build our conference, pass critical legislation, and keep our commitment to the American people. We wholeheartedly endorse his race for speaker and urge our colleagues to help us get the job done.”

The only GOP member of Michigan’s congressional delegation who has not endorsed Bergman is U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga.

In a social media post Bergman said he appreciated the support from James, who he called “my wingman.”

Following a pro-Trump attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Bergman was one of three Michigan lawmakers to vote against certifying 2020 presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump in both states. The other Michigan lawmakers joining Bergman in the votes were McClain and Walberg.

Last week, Bergman introduced a resolution to censure fellow Michigan U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) “for her antisemitism and disgraceful response to the attacks on our ally, Israel.”

Tlaib, who is Palestinian-American and a frequent critic of Israel, issued a statement after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israeli citizens that left 1,400 people dead that she grieved “the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day” and calling for “lifting the blockade, ending the occupation and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance.”

In announcing his resolution, Bergman said: “As Hamas terrorists beheaded infants, paraded dead Jewish teenagers through town, and attacked innocent concert goers in the most deadly day for Jews since the Holocaust, Rep. Rashida Tlaib chose to place the blame solely on Israel and the Jewish people. There is no moral equivalence between Israel defending itself and Hamas attacking innocent Israeli civilians. Tlaib’s long history of anti-Semitic tropes and blatant anti-Jewish propaganda is both disturbing and evil – and should have no place in the halls of Congress.”

Kim Lyons contributed to this story.


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Susan J. Demas
Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is editor-in-chief of Michigan Advance. A 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, she has appeared on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” She is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.

Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune |, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.