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.
Today’s newsletter goes into more details on the splits inside the Republican Party and on what may happen next.
The Republican Party was long dominated by establishment figures friendly to big business while also being the home of religious conservatives and foreign policy hawks. In recent years, though, the junior members of the coalition — more conservative on policy, more extreme about process and more aligned with Trump — have increased in number and, as a result, in power, as The Times’s Nate Cohn explains.
“I don’t recognize my party in some respects,” Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, says in a new biography. Our colleague Luke Broadwater, who covers the House, writes: “Republicans have made no secret of their divisions. They openly refer to their various factions as The Five Families — a reference to warring Mafia crime families.”
Those “Five Families” are:
The Freedom Caucus, a hard-right faction made up of lawmakers who formed the Tea Party movement and strongly back Trump.
The Republican Study Committee, an older conservative group and the largest G.O.P. ideological faction.
The Main Street Caucus, made up of pro-business Republicans.
The Republican Governance Group, which comprises many fiscally conservative but socially moderate members.
The Problem Solvers Caucus, which includes both Republicans and Democrats and focuses on policies with bipartisan support.
The divisions in the speaker’s race don’t perfectly match the five factions, but they do overlap.
Hard-right lawmakers helped topple McCarthy, frustrated by a bill he passed with Democratic votes to fund the government. Several of them also blocked Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, because they preferred Jordan for speaker. Then more mainstream lawmakers blocked Jordan. And now Trump loyalists have retaliated and forced Emmer to withdraw.
One reason each faction can block others’ preferred candidates is that the Republican majority is so small that just four lawmakers can prevent someone from becoming speaker.
“What’s unique about today’s situation is the combination of deep intraparty conflicts and a really narrow majority,” Ruth Bloch Rubin, a University of Chicago political scientist who studies Congress, told us. “If you have any kind of divisions, they become more salient.”
Johnson, a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, is a socially conservative lawyer, an evangelical Christian and a Jordan ally. Johnson energetically defended Trump during his first impeachment and, unlike Emmer, tried to overturn the 2020 election results. He hopes to hold a House vote to become speaker today.
One other factor is the Democratic Party. Some Democrats could plausibly help elect a new speaker by voting for a relatively moderate Republican. But that outcome doesn’t look likely now. Democrats seem happy to let the other party try to solve its own mess.
Another option is to give Patrick McHenry, the North Carolina Republican serving as temporary speaker, the power to run the House and bring legislation to the floor. But because McHenry is a McCarthy ally, the hard-right lawmakers who unseated McCarthy oppose that option. Empowering McHenry, which some more centrist Republicans have supported, could require Democratic votes.
Related: The G.O.P.’s right flank has turned against the very idea of governing, Rich Lowry, a conservative writer, argues in Times Opinion.
The Latest in Gaza
Dozens of states sued Meta, saying that it had designed Facebook and Instagram to be addictive for kids.
The United Automobile Workers union again expanded its strike, telling 5,000 people at General Motors’ largest U.S. plant — in Texas — to stop working.
Other Big Stories
It’s inhumane and inefficient that the U.S. allows people to lose health insurance because of paperwork mistakes, Dr. Danielle Ofri writes.
Here’s a column by Bret Stephens on Hamas’s misinformation.
Halloween on the water: Covens of witches on paddle boards are appearing on lakes and ponds. But don’t worry, they won’t melt.
Win the reservation game: Getting a table in New York City might not be as tough as you think.
Lives Lived: Richard Roundtree redefined African American masculinity when he played one of the first Black action heroes in the 1971 movie “Shaft.” He died at 81.
M.L.B.: The Arizona Diamondbacksin Game 7 of their N.L.C.S., advancing to face the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
Ever-changing city: New Yorkers have long known that one of the city’s great vistas was Madison Square Park, where you could get a pristine view of the Empire State Building, then spin around to see the Flatiron Building. But a new luxury tower has blotted out that view of the Empire State, leading some to ask if New York should regulate its skyline.
“A healthy city is an evolving organism,” the Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman writes. Impose too many restrictions, he adds, and you might just turn New York into “Colonial Williamsburg on the Hudson.”