House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) is the clear frontrunner to replace recently ousted former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), but ascending to that leadership role in a divided House Republican Caucus has turned out to be easier said than done.
Though Scalise was formally nominated Wednesday by a majority of his fellow Republicans as the Speaker-Designate, he remains well short of the 217 votes needed in a floor vote to attain that position, as a sizeable number of GOP members remain staunchly opposed to him, Breitbart reported.
Indeed, while Scalise can only afford to lose around four Republican votes and still win the speaker's gavel, reports indicate that there are around 20 Republican members who will not vote for him.
Breitbart reported that, during a closed-door meeting Wednesday, the GOP conference voted 113-99 to nominate Leader Scalise to be the next House Speaker over the other top contender for the position, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH).
Just a few hours after he was nominated, Scalise rushed to schedule a floor vote among all House members, but faced with the strong likelihood that he would fall well short of the 217 votes necessary to clinch the speakership, that scheduled vote was later indefinitely delayed.
As things stand now, according to a whip count by The Hill, there are at least 14 Republicans who plan to vote for somebody other than Scalise to be the next speaker -- the majority of them support Jordan -- while another four members have let it be known they are undecided and one member has declined to give any comment at all about how they might vote.
Given that Scalise can only lose around four votes, the 14-20 votes arrayed against him appear to be an insurmountable obstacle to his goal of being the next speaker, at least for now.
The Washington Post reported that another closed-door meeting of Republican members was held Thursday, but after a few hours, it became clear that the meeting was "unproductive" and didn't change anybody's mind.
That lack of progress in solving the stalemate, interestingly enough, occurred even after Chairman Jordan announced that he would back his rival Scalise and encouraged his own supporters to vote for Scalise as the next speaker, according to CNBC.
Jordan's supporters appeared to be unmoved by the pleas of their preferred candidate, however, and it looks like the House will remain leaderless and unable to work on any major legislation -- such as aid for Israel in its war against Hamas or spending bills that need to be passed by mid-November -- for the foreseeable future.
Given the deadlocked situation, The Post reported that some House Republicans have begun to float ideas to bypass it, including Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), who suggested that his party should ask a sufficient number of their Democratic colleagues to either vote in favor of Scalise or at least vote "present" instead of against him, which would serve to lower the 217-vote threshold to a much lower number that Scalise might be able to attain.
Separately, The Post reported that some members are also now considering other alternatives to both Scalise and Jordan to be the next speaker, including House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN), who previously chaired the National Republican Campaign Committee, or Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), who currently chairs the conservative Republican Study Committee.
Another possible idea, albeit one that would likely require some measure of Democratic support to pass, would be a rule change to dramatically expand the power and authority of current interim Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC), who per existing House rules is limited to little more than overseeing the speaker's election, in order to at least allow legislative work to continue while the debate over the next permanent speaker continues.
It is unclear if any of those alternatives will prove to be any more popular than Scalise or Jordan is right now, and the only thing that does seem clear is that, barring any behind-the-scenes deal-making or arm-twisting, the House will remain without a speaker until at least next week, if not longer, until somebody steps up who can achieve the necessary 217 votes.