Trump, McCarthy Cast Doubt on Steve Scalise’s Speaker Chances

Republican Steve Scalise’s chances of becoming US House speaker dwindled Thursday after former President Donald Trump and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy cast doubt on his bid.

(Bloomberg) — Republican Steve Scalise’s chances of becoming US House speaker dwindled Thursday after former President Donald Trump and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy cast doubt on his bid. 

McCarthy questioned whether Scalise, his former No. 2, can pull off a win to become speaker as he remains far below the vote threshold required to take the House’s top job. Trump, meanwhile, raised questions about Scalise’s ability to take on the duty following his recent cancer diagnosis. 

“I just don’t know how you can do the job when you have such a serious problem,” Trump, who endorsed conservative firebrand Jim Jordan in the speaker race, told Fox News Radio on Thursday. 

Trump’s comments appeared to solidify opposition from at least one lawmaker, Anna Paulina Luna, a staunch Trump ally who showed reporters a summary of the interview and said Trump was weighing in on the race. Moments later, she announced her opposition to Scalise. 

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.

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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. 

The meeting, however, devolved into a contentious gathering, with reporters in the hallway hearing yelling inside the room. 

“It was an episode of Veep and now it’s turning into House of Cards,” Representative Nicole Malliotakis of New York said of the meeting. 

Representative David Joyce of Ohio emerged saying it’s “a festivus” in there and an “airing of grievances.” 

Joyce has been pushing to give more power to Patrick McHenry, the acting speaker pro tem so the House can conduct business.

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Lawmakers said there was no resolution of the GOP divide in the 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.

Trump, then the president, visited Scalise in the hospital after his condition worsened after being shot during a congressional GOP baseball practice in 2017. Scalise has since remained a Trump backer, publicly critical of the government prosecutions of the former president tied to the Jan. 6, 2021 US Capitol insurrection and other topics. 

–With assistance from Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan.

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