Majority Leader Steve Scalise He is scrambling to lock up votes to become the next House speaker, but lingering opposition to the Louisiana Republican Party within the GOP convention and the numerical realities of a narrowly divided chamber could ultimately derail his bid.
After Scalise received just 113 votes at the GOP convention, several senior Republicans fell short of 217 votes. Making up that deficit in a matter of days is a tall order — and many right-wing Republicans say they’re losing ground against Scalise, who can only lose four GOP votes on the floor. At least 12 GOP lawmakers have publicly said they oppose Scalise’s nomination, and many have expressed frustration or skepticism about his leadership more than enough to sink his bid.
House GOP members will huddle behind closed doors Thursday afternoon, according to two sources familiar with the matter. No phones are allowed in the meeting.
Republicans worry that Scalise Faces tough odds An impasse threatens to prolong the GOP’s leadership crisis as the speaker becomes deadlocked, leaving the House unable to move any legislation.
Late Wednesday, members of the convention began weighing how to handle the potential collapse of his bid, with several GOP sources saying they believe they should consider a new candidate who has yet to run for speaker.
Scalise spent Wednesday after the vote meeting separately with GOP members as he and his whip operation tried to convince holdouts to come around, the sources said. He’s seen some success in outreach, but it’s still unclear whether he can win over enough Republicans to overcome a razor-thin GOP House majority.
Scalise or any other Republican candidate for speaker would need 217 votes to secure a majority in the entire House, meaning they could lose just four Republicans if every member voted.
Rep. Jim Jordan, who lost a 113-99 vote to Scalise for speaker on Wednesday, said Thursday he wants Republicans to rally around Scalise. “I do, I’ve been clear about that since yesterday,” Jordan said.
But pressed on whether he would rule out taking the job if Scalise can’t get there, Jordan didn’t give a clear answer. “I will nominate Steve on the floor and hope we can unite around a speaker,” the Ohio Republican said.
Opposition to Scalise within his own party has cast doubt on how Republicans will extricate themselves from the speaker conundrum that has left them unable to govern.
While there was some hope on Capitol Hill that the weekend’s brutal attack on Israel would prompt Republicans to pick a leader soon — House lawmakers were given a classified briefing on Israel on Wednesday ahead of a conference vote on the speaker — deep divisions in the conference led to the firing of Kevin McCarthy last week and have now halted the search for a new speaker.
Tempers run high within the conference.
“These people are destroying our convention and want to be in the minority,” said Rep. Dan Bacon, who represents a swing Nebraska district. “They do not respect the customs of the Church that have been going on for more than two centuries.”
The House returned at noon Thursday, but there was no indication that Republicans would be ready to vote on the speaker.
Scalise faces widespread skepticism within the far-right House Freedom Caucus, a key group of Republicans who supported Trump-backed Jordan for speaker, citing a general lack of trust with Republican leadership, multiple sources told CNN. Although he is more conservative than McCarthy, Scalise has been in leadership years.
Jordan, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, threw his weight behind Scalise after Wednesday’s vote, saying he would encourage his supporters to do the same. “We need a speaker, and Steve is the man for it. Like I said, I offered to give a nomination speech for him,” the Ohio Republican told reporters Wednesday afternoon.
But on the House floor there was a coalition of lawmakers who expressed strong opposition to voting for Scalise.
“Well, Leader Scalise won, it’s not over. I’m still throwing my support behind Jim Jordan for Speaker. I’m not going to change my vote on the House floor now or anytime soon,” said GOP Rep. Max Miller of Ohio.
Scalise’s personal outreach eliminated at least one holdout. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, who said Wednesday she would vote for Jordan on the floor, met with Scalise and later said she felt “comfortable” enough to support his speakership nomination.
Although he said he would not make specific commitments, he promised to allow the oversight committee, which is part of the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, to “aggressively” do his job.
But Luna said she would only support Scalise for speaker on the first ballot. If it goes to multiple ballots, he said, “we’ll have to find a candidate” the convention can rally behind.
However, many Republicans don’t think Jordan can be a viable replacement because he lost the nomination race to Scalise, and some Republicans were annoyed that he didn’t immediately rally behind Scalise.
“If Scalise doesn’t win, the next person gets less votes,” Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Ballard said of Jordan. “And, I think, more controversial.” So it may not be a good thing for this place.
Rep. Erin Houchin of Indiana said, “She doesn’t know if it’s going to be Jordan or Scalise or anybody else at this point. … I think we’re in uncharted territory and it’s going to be very difficult to predict.
Another GOP member said it would have to be an entirely new candidate, which would take too long to line up.
“Steve is nowhere near 217,” the Republican said.
Acting Speaker Patrick McHenry, who left the House without a vote on Wednesday, tried to remain optimistic that the House GOP conference would soon resolve the impasse.
“That’s the hope,” the North Carolina Republican said when asked if he could hold a vote on Thursday.
Can anyone get the required 217 votes? He had the same answer: “That’s faith.”
This story and topic have been updated to include additional improvements.