Who will replace John Boehner? Here are the candidates.

These Are Now the GOP’s Best Prospects for House Speaker. Yeesh.

These Are Now the GOP’s Best Prospects for House Speaker. Yeesh.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Oct. 9 2015 4:14 PM

Who Will Replace John Boehner, Now?

Assessing the GOP’s sad-sack crop of potential candidates.

ryan_183_043015
Do any of you want the job? Former House Speaker Newt Gingrinch, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, and Rep. Darrell Issa.

Photo illustration by Juliana Jiménez. Photos by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.

Now that Kevin McCarthy has abandoned his bid, the state of the race for speaker of the House is … not really a race, yet. Everyone is waiting for Rep. Paul Ryan to stop whining about wanting to spend time with his family and just take the gig already.

Jim Newell Jim Newell

Jim Newell is a Slate staff writer.

If the full apparatus of the Grand Old Party continues to be unable to persuade Ryan, though, other members—and nonmembers—have shown interest in America’s Worst Job. Let’s run through some of the potential candidates, their qualifications, and what might keep them from getting the position second nearest to the presidency.

Advertisement

Darrell Issa

The showy former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has acknowledged that he’s considering a run, assuming Ryan stays out. (Issa told reporters that he “did everything but carry [Paul Ryan’s] gym bag this morning” in an effort to persuade him.) Issa, a member since 2001, has had an interesting life. A Lebanese-American, Issa was the proprietor (and voice!) of that annoying car alarm that every jerk in the ’90s had instructing would-be thieves to “STEP BACK FROM THE CAR.” As a result, he is the wealthiest member of Congress. How did he come up with the idea? Well, he is alleged to know a little bit about stealing cars. (In his youth, Issa was accused of stealing cars not once, not twice, but thrice. He denies all three accusations.)

The problem with Issa’s candidacy is that few seem to be rallying around him, and there are a few dozen conservatives who won’t accept anyone as speaker who doesn’t agree to their unrealistic demands.

Jason Chaffetz

Advertisement

Chaffetz is the similarly showy successor to Issa atop the oversight committee. Notice something in common about the figures that rise to head that committee? A penchant for self-promoting theatrics is favored, which can get you attention but also annoy your colleagues. Issa trashed Chaffetz just Friday morning for not publishing any staff reports since becoming chairman, as if his own tenure was anything more than a four-year show trial. Chaffetz had intended to compete against McCarthy as a figure who could “bridge the divide” between warring Republican sects. No one seemed much interested in the premise of his candidacy at first, but now Chaffetz feels like it’s his time to strike.

The problem with Chaffetz’s effort is that few seem to be rallying around him, and there are a few dozen conservatives who won’t accept anyone as speaker who doesn’t agree to their unrealistic demands.

Newt Gingrich

As every annoying D.C. pundit will tell you over and over again: Actually, the speaker doesn’t have to be a member of the House. So why not a former speaker who led House Republicans to their first majority in 40 years?

Advertisement

This is a half-joke, and it’s only worth bringing up because Gingrich, with his supremely comical ego, is almost certainly thinking about it in the back—or front—of his mind. The McCarthy stunner produced any number of juicy quotes Thursday. None, however, topped this one from Gingrich: “This is why George Washington came out of retirement—because there are moments you can’t avoid."

The problem with Gingrich’s candidacy is that … there are no problems with this. Newt Gingrich should be the next speaker, just as a lesser historical figure—George Washington—would’ve wanted him to be. The moment chooses the man. Come to think of it, though, there are a few dozen conservatives who won’t accept anyone as speaker who doesn’t agree to their unrealistic demands.

Lynn Westmoreland

The former Republican leader of the House in Georgia, who’s served in Congress since 2005, told the Daily Caller on Thursday that he would run for speaker. Leadership experience! Positions on several high-ranking committees! But would he pledge to default on the national debt unless President Obama agreed to repeal Obamacare or ban abortion or impeach himself? Probably not! So why are we even considering him!

Advertisement

Trey Gowdy

Republicans of all stripes admire the third-termer’s work as chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi. Gowdy, however, has expressed zero interest in being speaker, majority leader, whip, or perhaps even a member of Congress.

Daniel Webster

No, not that Daniel Webster, who’s been dead for more than 150 years. (Though death might not be a disqualifier, at this point.) That other Daniel Webster guy, the one from Florida. Webster was both speaker of the Florida House and majority leader of the Florida Senate, so he has the requisite legislative leadership credentials on the state level. But this is only his third term in Congress. Some would argue that’s an asset—we need fresh faces to take on the fat cats in Washington, blah blah blah argle-bargle—but running the House of Representatives is an extremely hard job that requires an encyclopedic knowledge of procedure.

Advertisement

The other problem with Webster’s candidacy is that the few dozen conservative troublemakers actually do support him for speaker, which means that no barely sane person in the Congress or on planet Earth could support him, even if he ends up being the only acceptable option to the veto-holding minority of Republicans.

Jeb Hensarling

Conservatives love the Texas head of the House Financial Services Committee. Funny story, though: Hensarling would have to ask conservatives to vote for a debt ceiling increase, and then conservatives would not love him. They would hate him!

You

Are you a warm-bodied human? Or a cold-bodied lizard? Or anything? (It really doesn’t matter at this point.) You might be the perfect candidate! It comes with a six-figure salary and quality health care/retirement benefits. They can probably even throw in a chauffeur and per diem for meals, booze, and cigarettes. Honestly, you have all the bargaining leverage, so take ’em to the cleaners. The only real job requirement at this point is that you have to pledge to immediately default on the national debt. Come on, how hard is that, Paul Ryan?