Rep. Austin Scott tosses his hat into Speaker race

October 13, 2023

Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) submitted his name into the race for Speaker of the House on Friday, where he’ll contend against House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH).

Scott’s candidacy emerged as House Republicans were meeting behind closed doors again Friday morning to try to select a new nominee for Speaker in the wake of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) dropping out.

Scott is a seven-term Representative whose committee assignments include the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Armed Services Committee, and the House Agriculture Committee. He’s also Vice Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management, and Credit.

Scalise withdrew his name Thursday night as his ability to secure the needed 217 votes among Republicans had grown increasingly difficult.

Following a close-door meeting Wednesday, House Republicans had nominated Scalise by a vote of 113-99 over Jordan. 

There are a total of 221 Republicans in the House, giving them a mere 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 Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) underwent a near-historic 15 rounds of voting before taking the gavel. 

As Wednesday and Thursday dragged on, 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 on Wednesday, and by Thursday, the number of Scalise opponents in the Republican House conference had nearly doubled to around two dozen.

However, numerous GOP sources also told CNN that Jordan is unlikely to unite Republicans and secure the gavel, either. 

The situation has left the House of Representatives rudderless and paralyzed, unable to pass any legislation—including a resolution to condemn the terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas.

“I’m a freshman caught up in this maelstrom; we’re a ship that doesn’t have a rudder right now, and I’m thoroughly disappointed in the process,” said Rep. Mark Alford (R-MO), who told reporters he was caught by surprise when Scalise withdrew. 

The disarray has been bubbling up since before the House’s unprecedented ousting of McCarthy from the Speakership last week, and it’s occurring as House Republicans are under pressure to move quickly to choose a new leader 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.

Some House Republicans are discussing the possibility of, at least temporarily, giving more powers to Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), whom McCarthy had chosen as Speaker Pro Tempore—a position that’s currently little more than a placeholder in practical terms.

“From my understanding, going back and forth and parliamentarian and Rules…the possibility exists to give somebody…full duties, excuse me, for a limited period of time,” Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) said Thursday, suggesting that such action could be taken through the adoption of a privileged resolution.

The Constitution says, “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings,” so the precise powers of a pro tem Speaker may well be whatever can get a majority vote, the Congressional news outlet Roll Call noted on Friday.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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