GOP holds emotional meeting on next speaker — but fails to unite on one

Republicans are facing steep pressure to choose their speaker quickly as the U.S. seeks to respond to the deadly attacks in Israel, as well as a looming government funding deadline next month. Several senior Republicans stood up to stress the urgency of various crises facing the U.S. — from the Israeli attacks to the border to inflation — as a plea for coming together as quickly as possible to elect a leader.

But it was clear that Republicans are still fiercely divided over how to move forward with their perilously thin margin — including whether they will rally around a consensus pick should their two candidates, Steve Scalise or Jim Jordan, fail to reach 217 votes on the floor.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), one of the eight who faced those Republican-on-Republican attacks on Monday night, described people as “angry” and “upset.”

“Some people were mad and they got a right to be mad. But I got a right to represent my constituents, too,” Burchett said.

The closed-door blood-letting — the first time the GOP has gathered since McCarthy revealed he wouldn’t try again for speaker six days ago — is a preview of a pivotal week in the Republican conference. The full group will meet at least two more times in the next two days — first on Tuesday for a candidate forum, followed by a conference-wide election the next morning.

“We’re kind of like a scattergram — we’re all over the map,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who described a wide range of opinions shared at the lengthy open mic period. Some members even raised the idea of reviving McCarthy as speaker — an idea widely viewed as a longshot.

Neither of the two GOP contenders for speaker spoke, according to members.

“They did not. This is for the members,” said Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.), who said he called for unity during the gathering.

Israel arose multiple times during the gathering. Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who recently returned from medical leave, received what appeared to be the loudest round of applause as he spoke about the GOP’s support of Israel.

With dozens of Republicans not yet back in Washington, many of the key decisions facing the conference will wait another day. Several GOP lawmakers spent Monday’s meeting pushing for rules changes: one to change the so-called motion to vacate, and another to raise the threshold of GOP support to elect the next speaker so that any winner can also land 217 votes on the floor.

But the divide on how to move forward was on display among members who left with different ideas.

While Van Drew, a Jordan supporter, said he hopes his colleagues will rally around whoever is the consensus pick out of conference, another Jordan ally, Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.), argued otherwise.

“Some had some ideas that people quickly shook their heads about. I was like: ‘No, no way. I’m not sacrificing my voting card for the majority feeling a certain way,’” Mills told POLITICO while leaving the meeting, about the speakership.

Another member said it would simply take more time to lower the temperature of the conference after a dramatic last week for the House GOP.

“We are dealing with whiplash. We have a lot of people who did everything they could to get speaker McCarthy elected. It’s been less than a week. The body is still warm,” said Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), who wants another week before holding leadership elections. “Yes, people are going to be upset, but we will come together collectively and we will find a way forward as we always do, and will continue to lead.”

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