Scalise drops out of race for U.S. House speaker
U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise speaks to reporters as he leaves a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on October 12, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise withdrew from the race for U.S. House speaker on Thursday evening, just one day after his colleagues nominated him for the role.
“Our conference still has to come together and it’s not there,” Scalise told reporters. “I was very clear we have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs. This country is counting on us to come back together, this House of Representatives needs a speaker and we need to open up the House again.”
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan was the only other declared candidate for speaker. He was narrowly beaten by Scalise during the conference vote Wednesday and quickly pivoted to backing Scalise while encouraging those who supported him to back Scalise as well.
After announcing he would withdraw his nomination, Scalise did not say whether he would back Jordan for speaker.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of people that look at it,” Scalise said of future candidates for speaker. “But it’s got to be people that aren’t doing it for themselves and their own personal interests.”
While Scalise got a majority of the 221 votes during the closed-door conference meeting, more than a dozen Republican lawmakers said they wouldn’t vote to elect him speaker on the floor.
Scalise announced his decision to step aside following the second meeting of the House Republican Conference on Thursday. The group met for about three hours in the afternoon and then regrouped in a room in the Capitol building’s basement around 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and Virginia’s Bob Good, were among those who said they wouldn’t back Scalise during a floor vote.
The U.S. House has been without a speaker for more than a week after eight GOP lawmakers and Democrats voted to remove California Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the post after just nine months.
Following Scalise’s nomination withdrawal, McCarthy said that Scalise will still be the party’s majority leader.
He called out the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats to remove him as speaker.
“How do you let 4% of the conference do this to the entire country?” McCarthy said. “I just think the conference as a whole has to figure out their problems, solve it, and select a leader.”
The chamber has been essentially frozen since then, with North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry filling the role of speaker pro tempore. There are still questions on how the chamber can function in the absence of a speaker.
The pro tem job, created following the 9/11 terrorist attacks to ensure continuity of government, is not clearly defined in House rules.
A House procedure expert told States Newsroom during an interview on Thursday that the chamber could temporarily elect McHenry, or any other House member, to the role if they wanted to begin moving resolutions or bills.
Some House Republicans have begun suggesting the party do just that if they cannot elect a speaker on the floor soon.
Support for Jordan is already growing with House Republicans. Jim Banks of Indiana posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he would support Jordan as speaker.
“Jim Jordan is a conservative fighter who can unite our party and he continues to have my full support to be the next Speaker of the House,” Banks wrote.
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