Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy cast significant doubt on whether his former No. 2, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, can pull off a win to become speaker as the Louisiana Republican remains far below the vote threshold required to take the House’s top job.
(Bloomberg) — Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy cast significant doubt on whether his former No. 2, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, can pull off a win to become speaker as the Louisiana Republican remains far below the vote threshold required to take the House’s top job.
McCarthy, who has a long-running personal rivalry with Scalise, told reporters Thursday it’s “possible” Scalise becomes speaker. “But it’s a big hill,” he added.
Scalise narrowly beat Representative Jim Jordan on a 113-99 secret ballot vote to win his party’s nomination for speaker on Wednesday. But that’s not even halfway to the 217 votes required to clinch a win on the floor — and, according to McCarthy, far short of what Scalise promised.
“He told a lot people he was going to be 150 and he wasn’t there,” said McCarthy, who last week became the first speaker in US history to be toppled in a vote on the floor.
A Scalise aide said he has been making progress in mustering support after holding meetings and taking calls through the night and morning.
House Republicans met behind closed doors shortly after noon Thursday with the speaker vote unresolved.
“We’re going to have a really good conversation with our conference,” Scalise said just before that meeting.
Democrats are united behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, meaning Scalise can afford to lose just four GOP votes to get to 217.
After narrowly securing his party’s nomination, Scalise began campaigning to win over Jordan’s backers, but he has yet to flip enough holdouts to avoid an embarrassing repeat of McCarthy’s election in January, which took 15 ballots.
A floor vote hasn’t been scheduled.
Read more: Republican Divisions Threaten Scalise’s Ascent to House Speaker
Without a speaker, the House remains at a standstill, unable to conduct any normal business as a mid-November shutdown looms and pressure increases to pull together an aid package for Israel.
–With assistance from Billy House.
(Updates with Scalise quote in seventh paragraph)
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