The contenders to replace Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the US House

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The clock is ticking for Republicans on Capitol Hill to elect a new leader, after the dramatic ouster of Kevin McCarthy this week left the House of Representatives without a Speaker and brought the dysfunction in Washington to a new level.

The historic vote laid bare long-simmering tensions within the Republican party, and raised questions about who will lead the party going forward at a time of deep division over issues such as how to fund the federal government and whether to underwrite more US aid to Ukraine.

It also underscored the nearly impossible task of governing, given Republicans control the House by a razor-thin margin.

Any new Speaker will need a simple majority of the 435-member House, or at least 218 votes, to be elected. That will be a tall order, given the unprecedented rancour among congressional Republicans.

Further, any replacement will need to win over at least a handful of the eight Republican rebels who voted against McCarthy, as Democrats will almost certainly refuse to back a Republican.

The timeline for a Speaker election is unclear. Patrick McHenry, the interim leader, or Speaker pro tempore, of the House called the chamber into recess late on Tuesday after McCarthy’s ouster, and members have been advised that no votes are expected until at least next week.

Two candidates — Jim Jordan of Ohio and Steve Scalise of Louisiana — have declared they are running, while others consider jumping into the race, including Kevin Hern of Oklahoma.

Some hardline Republican House members, notably Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, have made the far-fetched suggestion that Donald Trump, the former president, throw his hat in the ring. The US Constitution does not specify that the Speaker must be an elected member of Congress — although every Speaker has been one.

Speaking to reporters at a New York courthouse on Wednesday, where he is facing a civil fraud trial, Trump deflected questions about whether he would run — although he did not rule it out.

“A lot of people have been calling me about Speaker. All I can say is: we will do whatever is best for the country, and for the Republican party,” said Trump, the undisputed frontrunner in a crowded field of Republicans vying for the party’s presidential nomination in 2024. He added that his focus was “totally” on running for president.

“If I can help them during the process, I would do it. But we have some great people in the Republican party that could do a great job as Speaker.”

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