Scalise Ends House Speaker Bid, Deepening Republican Turmoil

Representative Steve Scalise abandoned his short-lived campaign Thursday to become US House speaker following days of contentious meetings among fellow Republicans.

(Bloomberg) — Representative Steve Scalise abandoned his short-lived campaign Thursday to become US House speaker following days of contentious meetings among fellow Republicans. 

The struggle has only deepened divisions within the party and prolonged the House’s inability to address an approaching fiscal deadline and respond to the Middle East war. 

“It wasn’t going to happen today. It wasn’t going to happen tomorrow,” Scalise told reporters Thursday night. “I withdraw my name.” He said he wouldn’t get involved in choosing an alternative nominee but election of a speaker “needs to happen quickly.”

It’s unclear where Republicans go from here. Conservative firebrand Jim Jordan, who has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, received 99 votes in the first round and could run again. 

Many of Jordan’s supporters have stuck behind his candidacy, even after the Ohio Republican endorsed Scalise. Yet his hardball tactics and involvement in the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden could present a problem for moderate Republicans, particularly the 18 from areas Biden won in 2020.

Jordan, however, has recently shown a willingness to compromise, offering support for legislation without deep spending cuts that would keep the government open through April.  

A new candidate such as GOP vote counter Tom Emmer of Minnesota or Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern of Oklahoma could jump into the contest. 

Republicans plan to meet again on Friday morning to discuss their next steps.

Scalise’s withdrawal after narrowly winning the party’s nomination followed the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was voted out by eight Republican dissidents and unified Democrats.

Historic Dysfunction

The two events illustrate a historically dysfunctional House majority party riven by ideological and policy disputes over issues like immigration, Ukraine assistance and a potential government shutdown. 

Still No House Speaker? What This Means for US: QuickTake

Several senior House Republicans expressed doubt any member of their party could get the 217 votes on the floor required to claim the speaker’s gavel without some help from Democrats.

Earlier in the day, the Republican leaders of two national security committees called for dramatic action to overcome the standoff.

Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers and Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul acknowledged Thursday that their party is unable to get 217 votes to elect a speaker solely on the backs of Republican support. Republicans can afford to lose only four votes if Democrats remain united behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Rogers suggested Republicans might have to cut a deal with Democrats and called on Jeffries to spell out what concessions he would require to help the GOP elect a speaker. 

Jeffries has offered discussions on a bipartisan path forward. But Rogers said Democrats should make a specific offer that could provide a basis for opening negotiations.

Scalise said he would stay on as majority leader, the No. 2 GOP job, adding that he still has “a deep deep passion for making sure we get out country back on track and getting our conference fixed again.”

–With assistance from Erik Wasson, Steven T. Dennis and Mackenzie Hawkins.

(Updates with Republicans meeting on Friday, in eighth paragraph.)

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