In the past three weeks, House Republicans have dumped their party leader — Speaker Kevin McCarthy — and repeatedly failed to elect the candidate whom they had nominated to replace McCarthy.
They can’t seem to find anyone who can win the 217 votes needed for a House majority. There are currently 221 Republicans in the House, and at least a handful has opposed every candidate so far. The result is a political mess with little precedent in the U.S. Congress.
Yesterday afternoon, Republicans nominated Tom Emmer, a relative moderate from Minnesota, to be the next speaker, choosing him from a field of seven candidates. But Emmer dropped out of the race hours later, an acknowledgment that he too lacked the votes to become speaker. Too many right-wing members objected to him, and Donald Trump attacked him on social media as “totally out-of-touch with Republican Voters.”
Last night, Republicans chose yet another nominee: Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a hard-line conservative. Johnson will now try to win enough support to become speaker. He is Republicans’ fourth nominee in recent weeks, after Jim Jordan, Steve Scalise and Emmer.
The main explanation for the chaos is that the Republican Party’s growing radical faction and its still substantial mainstream wing can’t find common ground. “When your party doesn’t agree on much, it’s really hard to do things,” James Wallner, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute who has worked for Republicans in Congress, told us.
There is an old joke among political journalists about the media constantly writing about “Democrats in disarray.” But the Democratic Party in recent years has been remarkably functional, at least in Congress. Despite their ideological differences, the party’s moderate and progressive factions have compromised on legislation and had little trouble choosing their leaders. These days, it’s the G.O.P. that’s in disarray.