On Wednesday, House Republicans nominated Representative Steve Scalise as their candidate for the next House speaker, dealing a significant blow to Donald Trump, who had endorsed Jim Jordan for the position.
In a private ballot at the Capitol, House Republicans opted for Scalise, the current majority leader, over Jordan, the outspoken Judiciary Committee chairman from Ohio. However, the deeply divided majority struggled to quickly unite and conduct a public floor vote to elect the conservative leader after the removal of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Scalise, a Louisiana congressman battling blood cancer, is admired by some for his resilience after surviving a mass shooting during a congressional baseball game practice in 2017.
“We have a lot of work to do,” commented Scalise after the nomination.
While a full House vote could take place soon, tensions linger among Republicans, who find themselves in a deadlock due to internal strife following McCarthy’s historic removal last week. The outcome of Wednesday’s planned voting remains uncertain.
“We need to make sure we’re sending a message to people all throughout the world that the House is open to doing the people’s business,” emphasized Scalise.
The question now is whether Jordan, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, will throw his support behind Scalise in what is expected to be a closely contested full House vote. Democrats are poised to oppose the Republican nominee.
Jordan’s close alliance with Trump, particularly during efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, including the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, gained him Trump’s endorsement for the speaker position, but that was not enough for the GOP conference.
Jordan kept his remarks brief after the vote, stating only that the GOP majority “is divided.”
Amid this internal strife, Rep. Don Bacon, a centrist leader from Nebraska, emphasized the need to appoint a speaker to facilitate governance.
“What we should have heard today after the vote count was, ‘I will heartily support Steve. Let’s get behind him,’” said Bacon. “We did not hear that.”
The hard-right coalition that ousted McCarthy has highlighted the influential role a few lawmakers can play in selecting his successor. Some Republicans, like Rep. Ken Buck from Colorado, expressed dissatisfaction with both Scalise and Jordan.
The path forward for Scalise is uncertain, as it remains to be seen if he can secure the necessary votes from almost all Republicans to overcome Democratic opposition. While the usual majority needed is 218 votes, there are currently two vacant seats, lowering the threshold to 217.
To avoid a messy House floor fight, many Republicans want to resolve their internal disagreements behind closed doors. They voted against a proposed rules change that would have ensured a majority vote before presenting the nominee for a full floor vote.
This political turmoil comes just 10 months after Republicans assumed power, marking a moment of extraordinary chaos amid domestic uncertainty and international crises. The GOP majority’s aspiration to function cohesively and govern like a business has veered off course.
Lawmakers like Rep. Matt Gaetz, who played a role in McCarthy’s removal, expressed willingness to support either Scalise or Jordan. For now, Rep. Patrick McHenry, appointed as the speaker pro-tempore, is in charge, with little interest in expanding his role beyond facilitating the election of the next speaker.