The latest news suggests that Kevin McCarthy simply does not have the votes to survive today’s challenge from Matt Gaetz. In other words, he’ll lose both the first procedural vote (pretty much a foregone conclusion) and the big vote that actually removes him as Speaker. So it looks highly likely that McCarthy will be out as Speaker today. But as we’ve said, that doesn’t end the story. They still have to elect a new Speaker.
That leaves us back in the situation we were in last January – with one exception. Back then it reverted to the House Clerk who just kept holding votes until a Speaker was elected. It’s something like that. After 9/11 a new continuity of government rule was implemented to preserve the continuity of government. A new Speaker submits a secret list of members who can become Speaker pro-tem if they’re not available. The point of this rule was to deal with a catastrophic terrorist attack. But it seems to apply here as well.
There’s some uncertainty among parliamentarians about precisely what happens next. The consensus seems to be that it’s a replay of January: all that person is empowered to do is elect a new Speaker. So again, a replay of January. What puts some muscle behind all this is that the Speaker is part of the constitutional line of succession. It’s actually a national security issue. The pro-tem can’t be in the line of succession. For both those reasons we appear to be on the cusp of a January replay.