Republican Hard-Liners Withhold Support for Scalise as Speaker, Exacerbating Inactivity in the House

by Sophia Chen
House Speaker crisis

Nominated for the position of House Speaker, Rep. Steve Scalise encountered an escalating issue within his own party on Thursday: A cohort of skeptical Republican members are withholding their endorsement, thereby preventing him from obtaining the majority vote essential for securing the role.

The crisis has worsened, leaving Republicans with yet another day devoid of a House Speaker. To gain the position, Scalise needs to amass over 100 votes, primarily from supporters of his main opponent, Rep. Jim Jordan, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Jordan, favored by staunch conservatives, declared his withdrawal from the race and transferred his support to Scalise.

However, numerous hard-line Republicans, influenced by Donald Trump, are entrenched in an extended struggle to find a replacement for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, following his unprecedented removal from the speakership. These members contend that Scalise, who is also contending with a health condition, specifically cancer, is not the suitable leader for them. Consequently, no votes have been scheduled in the House.

“After another confidential meeting in the Capitol, we will resolve this,” stated Scalise. During a two-hour session, Scalise responded to every question and vowed to address the concerns raised. Nonetheless, a straightforward solution remains elusive.

When Rep. Kevin McCarthy arrived at the Capitol, he emphasized, “Time is critical.” In response to queries about the feasibility of Scalise garnering adequate support, McCarthy conceded, “It’s feasible, but it’s a steep climb.”

As the House goes into its second week without a Speaker, its functionality is severely impaired, adding to the political onus on Republicans to regain majority control and execute legislative responsibilities.

Immediate action is imperative to prevent a government shutdown next month. Additionally, Congress is expected to make a robust endorsement of Israel in its conflict with Hamas, although bipartisan efforts have been stymied by the ongoing deadlock. The White House is likely to request funding for Israel, Ukraine, and the replenishment of the U.S. weapons cache.

The scenario somewhat mirrors the beginning of the year, when McCarthy faced similar resistance from a distinct faction of far-right conservatives who initially voted him in as Speaker, only to subsequently orchestrate his removal.

The numbers this time, however, are more challenging. In a private Republican vote, Scalise won 113-99. Although Scalise had previously suggested that he would secure 150 votes in a confidential ballot, he fell short of that number. He now requires 217 votes for a majority, which is expected to be crucial in a floor fight against Democrats. With the chamber delicately balanced at 221-212 and two seats vacant, Scalise can afford to lose only a few Republicans while facing near-certain opposition from Democrats backing their leader, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

Democrats, increasingly exasperated, are urging Republicans to resolve the impasse, cautioning that the world’s attention is focused on them. “The GOP needs to end its internal conflict immediately,” said Jeffries.

Republicans spent a second day in closed-door meetings, engaged in debates and airing grievances but were unable to coalesce around a single nominee.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw expressed that the meeting had been dominated by “emotional” reluctance to support Scalise, stating, “Personal grievances should not be the focus, yet that’s what seems to be happening.”

Some Republicans even chose to leave the meeting with their lunches, while Rep. Jim Jordan reiterated his withdrawal and endorsed Scalise. Despite this endorsement and Jordan’s encouragement to fellow lawmakers to vote for Scalise, the holdouts remain unswayed.

Hard-line factions announced continued allegiance to either Jordan, McCarthy, or another candidate altogether. Rep. Troy Nehls affirmed his support for Trump as Speaker—a position not requiring Congressional membership.

Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, recently discussed Scalise’s health condition, stating, “Steve is seriously ill, particularly with his cancer.” Scalise is undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma.

Republicans are keen on averting a disorderly floor confrontation similar to the protracted battle that ensued when McCarthy assumed the speakership. However, some believe it is time for a decisive action. “Quit prolonging it,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene commented via social media, adding that the next Speaker should be as resilient as McCarthy had been in previous rounds.

Contributors to this report include Jill Colvin in New York and Kevin Freking.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about House Speaker crisis

Who is the main candidate for the position of House Speaker among Republicans?

The main candidate for the House Speaker position among Republicans is Rep. Steve Scalise. He has been nominated but faces resistance within his own party, particularly from hard-line Republicans.

Why is Rep. Steve Scalise facing resistance from within his party?

Rep. Steve Scalise is facing resistance mainly from hard-line Republicans, some of whom are influenced by Donald Trump. These members argue that Scalise, who is also dealing with a health condition, is not the leader they will support.

What role did Rep. Jim Jordan play in this scenario?

Rep. Jim Jordan was initially a competitor for the position of House Speaker but withdrew from the race. After his withdrawal, he transferred his support to Rep. Steve Scalise and encouraged his colleagues to do the same.

How is the absence of a House Speaker affecting legislative activities?

The House has been without a Speaker for more than a week, rendering it essentially non-functional. This is creating an increased urgency for policy-related actions, including the need to fund the government to avoid a federal shutdown.

What is the Democratic Party’s stance on this situation?

Democrats are increasingly exasperated by the ongoing impasse within the Republican Party. New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries has urged Republicans to resolve their internal conflict, warning that the world is watching.

What are the immediate policy issues at stake?

Immediate policy issues at stake include the need to fund the government to avoid a shutdown, along with a strong statement of support for Israel in its conflict with Hamas. The White House is also expected to request funding for Israel, Ukraine, and replenishment of the U.S. weapons stockpile.

Is Donald Trump playing any role in this leadership crisis?

Donald Trump has commented on the health of Rep. Steve Scalise, stating that his cancer condition poses a challenge. However, he is expected to adopt a hands-off approach to the internal GOP struggle, now that his choice, Jim Jordan, is no longer running for the Speaker position.

How many votes does Steve Scalise need to become House Speaker?

Steve Scalise needs to secure at least 217 votes to attain the majority required for the Speaker position. The chamber is narrowly split at 221-212, with two vacancies, meaning Scalise can afford to lose only a few Republican votes.

What happens if the Republicans do not resolve the Speaker issue soon?

If the Republicans do not resolve the Speaker issue promptly, the legislative deadlock is likely to continue, increasing the risk of a federal government shutdown and delaying important policy decisions.

Who are some other names that hard-liners are supporting for Speaker?

Some hard-liners are continuing to support either Jim Jordan or Kevin McCarthy, despite Jordan’s withdrawal and McCarthy’s ouster. Additionally, some like Rep. Troy Nehls have even suggested that Donald Trump could be considered for the Speaker position, a role that does not require Congressional membership.

More about House Speaker crisis

  • GOP House Speaker Race
  • Profile of Rep. Steve Scalise
  • Rep. Jim Jordan’s Withdrawal
  • The Role of the House Speaker
  • Current Legislative Deadlocks in Congress
  • Democratic Response to GOP Infighting
  • Immediate Policy Issues at Stake
  • Donald Trump’s Comments on Rep. Scalise
  • Historical Instances of Speaker Elections
  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s Ouster

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TeaPartyTom October 13, 2023 - 12:05 am

Scalise, Jordan, McCarthy… doesn’t matter. Need someone who can actually lead and not just be a figurehead.

MaddyG October 13, 2023 - 3:38 am

Scalise survived a shooting and now this? Guess politics is just as dangerous.

JohnDoe89 October 13, 2023 - 7:34 am

Wow, the GOP’s really in a mess, huh? Scalise can’t even get his own party on board. What’s gonna happen next, Trump for Speaker? Lol.

AutoFan22 October 13, 2023 - 9:01 am

Hardliners are the real issue here. they just won’t budge, will they? it’s like their way or the highway.

CryptoKing October 13, 2023 - 1:19 pm

Dems must be loving this, just sitting back and watching the show. GOP needs to end the civil war and get back to governing.

EconNerd October 13, 2023 - 1:22 pm

Policy paralysis at its worst. And in the meantime, we’re all waiting for decisions on serious stuff like funding and foreign policy.

Financier101 October 13, 2023 - 3:16 pm

Time’s ticking and they’re arguing over Chick-fil-A lunches? seriously, get it together. The gov might shut down and they’re still squabbling.

PoliticalWatcher October 13, 2023 - 5:42 pm

Jim Jordan bows out and still, Scalise can’t unite the party. Tough times for Republicans. I’m just sitting here wondering how this will play out in 2024.

BettyQ October 13, 2023 - 8:55 pm

Scalise is dealing with cancer and still wants to be Speaker? Man’s got courage but maybe he should focus on his health.

Sara_T October 13, 2023 - 10:03 pm

So Scalise needs 217 votes, but the chamber’s split is super narrow. With Dem’s obviously not supporting him, where’s he gonna get the votes?


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