Scalise cancer treatments will keep him away from votes through February

By Jen Krausz on
 January 6, 2024

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise's (R-LA) office announced on Friday that he will miss House votes until sometime in February as he receives treatment for multiple myeloma, including a stem cell transplant. 

Scalise already underwent chemotherapy to treat the blood cancer, and his response was considered positive enough to have the transplant.

Scalise's office said in a statement:

Last month, Leader Scalise successfully completed induction chemotherapy and had a positive response. It has now been determined he is eligible for an autologous stem cell transplant. He is currently undergoing the transplant process, marking a significant milestone in his battle against cancer. Once the procedure is completed, he will be recovering under the supervision of his medical team and will work remotely until returning to Washington next month. He is incredibly grateful to have progressed so well, and is thankful to his entire medical team, family, friends, and colleagues for their prayers and support.

Scalise's absence makes the Republican majority even more razor-thin than it had been previously, however.

Republicans decimated

Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) left Congress at the end of 2023, and Rep. Bill Johnson (R-LA) will be leaving in January.

That gives Republicans 219 seats to Democrats 213 after Rep. George Santos (R-NY) was expelled over ethics allegations last month.

Republicans fear that the February special election for Santos' seat will go to Democrat Tom Suozzi, who formerly held it, which would give Democrats 214 seats.

Scalise's absence would make the advantage effectively 218-214, which means that if more than one Republican defects on any particular vote, Republicans could not hold their majority.

A divided government

The divided nature of the House reflects a divided electorate, particularly at the local level for some seats.

While Republicans are seen as having a good chance to win back the Senate in 2024 because of the number of seats up for grabs and their makeup, holding onto the House could be a much tougher proposition.

In some cases, a divided government works well in keeping extreme legislation from being passed when either side has power. The Founding Fathers even said that was part of why they came up with a bi-cameral, three-branch government full of checks and balances.

However, it would be nice to be able to undo some of the damage Biden has caused since taking office as well as stopping him from doing any more damage, and having power in Congress would help with that.

Currently, the House is the only chance Republicans have outside of the courts to stop unchecked Democrat power, and having the Republican majority stand on a knife's edge is a bit precarious for many conservatives.

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