Steve Scalise withdraws from Speaker of the House race

October 12, 2023

House Minority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), who had been the front runner among House Republican nominees for the empty Speakership, dropped out of the race Thursday evening. 

“I just shared with my colleagues that I’m withdrawing my name as a candidate for the speaker designee,” the Louisiana Republican told reporters.

His withdrawal came amid multiple reports that House Republicans were slipping deeper into chaos amid feuds over choosing the next Speaker, following the unprecedented ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the leadership position last week.

Following a closed-door meeting Wednesday, House Republicans nominated Scalise to be the next Speaker by a vote of 113-99. But that show of support didn’t come anywhere near the 217 votes requested by far-right Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) before the conference settled on a nominee. 

There are a total of 221 Republicans in the House, giving them a razor-thin five-seat majority over the Democrats, who are almost certain to vote en mass for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) when the formal vote takes place—just as they did in January when McCarthy underwent a near-historic 15 rounds  of voting before taking the gavel. 

By Wednesday evening, it appeared clear that Scalise was struggling to secure the votes he’d need to win the Speaker’s gavel.

“Steve is nowhere near 217,” said one Republican lawmaker told CNN. 

By late Thursday, the number of Scalise opponents in the GOP conference nearly doubled to around two dozen.

However, numerous GOP sources also told CNN that Scalise’s contender for the Speakership, House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH), may not be able to unite Republicans and secure the gavel, either. 

A conservative who rose to Republican leadership after the party took majority in 2010 amid the hard-line “tea party” movement, Scalise has been a longtime rival of McCarthy, who has reportedly told his fellow Republicans not to nominate him again.

Scalise reportedly worked overnight on Wednesday to try to build a majority that could elect him to the Speakership. But several members of the House GOP have pledged support for Jordan. 

After Scalise dropped out, McCarthy acknowledged the Majority Leader’s difficult task, saying that the GOP conference has to solve its problem.

“I just think the conference as a whole has to figure out their problem, solve it and select their leader,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy was asked by a reporter if it was validating at all to see that other Republicans would also have challenges, to which he replied, “No, we don’t want this. You know, what’s validating to me is, how do you allow four percent of the conference to do this to the entire country. Why would all of the Democrats join with eight members?” 

He had been removed by eight Republicans in last week’s vote.

The discord is occurring as House Republicans are under pressure to move quickly from members of their own party in the Senate amid a looming deadline to pass a federal budget for fiscal year 2024 and avoid a government shutdown in mid-November, as well as calls to approve appropriations for additional military aid to Israel and Ukraine.

PHOTO: Steve Scalise talks to reporters Wednesday  

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