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Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise

Speaker race splits House Republicans

Breaking news: Fox News’ Bret Baier will host a closed debate and discussion between the GOP candidates for speaker Monday night, according to a source involved with the planning.

As of now, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and RSC Chair Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) will participate. Hern hasn’t officially entered the speaker race.

House Republicans will host a candidate forum Tuesday night and the closed party election Wednesday. There is no timeline for electing a speaker on the House floor.

The latest: This is a very unusual race for speaker. There’s no other way to say it.

The stunning ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy has left House Republicans in completely uncharted territory, with no one quite certain how to get them back on track.

Neither current candidate to succeed McCarthy — Jordan or Scalise — has a clear lead in endorsements. Neither has shown a ton of momentum up to this point. While unquestionably liked and respected by their Republican colleagues — even admired — there are lots of questions lingering about both men. These range from their ability to raise the big sums needed in modern-day House politics to the likelihood that either can unify the Republican Conference’s bitterly warring factions.

Jordan got what could prove to be a major boost on Thursday night when former President Donald Trump endorsed him.

Yet even a Trump endorsement — with all that it carries — may not get Jordan to 218. Although we keep hearing that people like Jordan because he’s not currently in the leadership and can control the hardliners.

Based on our conversations with lawmakers, aides, backers of Scalise and Jordan and uncommitted House Republicans, it seems highly unlikely that a speaker will be chosen and approved on the House floor by next week.

What they’re doing today: Scalise and Jordan are talking to the House Freedom Caucus, the Western Caucus and the freshmen class today.

At this point, about one-quarter of the 221 House Republicans have committed publicly to Jordan or Scalise. Meaning neither is remotely close to nailing down a majority of the conference, let alone the 218 votes needed on the floor.

So we wanted to walk through a few dynamics that are bubbling up inside the GOP conference.

The MTV reform crew. Forty-five House Republicans, including several power players, have written a letter to the conference effectively demanding changes to the motion-to-vacate rule that cost McCarthy his job.

Here’s the letter. A few members who signed this letter say they’re not willing to endorse for speaker until the MTV is overhauled. Important names on here include Reps. Stephanie Bice (Okla.); Dusty Johnson (S.D.), a member of the leadership; Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), a leading moderate; Rep. Garret Graves (La.), a close McCarthy ally; Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (Texas); and Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (Mo.).

This faction is 45 strong, as we noted, so this is something we’ll keep a very close eye on.

PMC rising? Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry has a serious title but little real power, as detailed here by the Democrats on the Rules Committee. Sure, he has a security detail. Beyond that, House officials say McHenry can’t do much of anything except oversee a speaker election.

Yet in recent days, McHenry has heard from a number of lawmakers who have told him he should consider a bid for the speakership. McHenry has resisted entreaties to run for leadership in the past. He passed on a bid for whip at the start of this Congress.

Others to watch as popular backup options include Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.). There could be more members thrown into the mix if there’s a stalemate and Republicans seek a consensus candidate.

How about a McCarthy encore? We’ve heard some House Republicans suggest they’ll nominate McCarthy to be speaker once again in the closed House GOP election. One source postulated to us that Republicans will eventually come around to the reality that no one else can get to 218 — and then come back to McCarthy.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said this in a statement Thursday: “The only workable outcome is to restore Kevin McCarthy as Speaker under party rules that respect and enforce the right of the majority party to elect him.”

But McCarthy can’t get to 218 either, so it doesn’t matter much. This will be an interesting dynamic to watch, however.

218 in the room: There’s been a push by some — including Graves — to hold off on any speaker vote on the floor until 218 Republicans have formally agreed to back a nominee.

This would require a change of the House GOP rules and there are lots of questions about how it would work.

The driving dynamic at play here is Republicans don’t want to go to the floor and look like a bunch of clowns again by going through 15 rounds of voting.

The fundraising rush: One of the main jobs of a modern speaker is to raise money. And lots of ink has been spilled on McCarthy’s fundraising abilities. We get it. He was a really good fundraiser. But he got deposed. So Republicans have to find another really good fundraiser.

Scalise has raised nearly $170 million to support Republicans during the last decade. Scalise raised more last cycle — $53 million — than the $38 million Jordan raised over the last decade, according to a Scalise-aligned source. Scalise has given $50 million to the NRCC over the last five years.

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