House Majority Leader Scalise withdraws from Speaker's race due to lack of sufficient support among GOP members

October 13, 2023
Ben Marquis

On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) was nominated by a slim majority of his Republican colleagues to replace former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who was ousted from that position in unprecedented fashion last week.

By Thursday evening, however, after it became clear that Scalise lacked the necessary support to secure the speaker's gavel in a full House floor vote, he withdrew his name from consideration for the powerful leadership role, USA Today reported.

That withdrawal served to cause further chaos and disarray in the leaderless lower chamber of Congress that is unable to resume normal business or pursue legislation -- including on major issues like government funding and the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas -- until a new speaker is selected.

Scalise withdraws from speaker's race

During a Thursday night press conference, Leader Scalise said, "It’s been quite a journey and there’s still a long way to go. I just shared with my colleagues that I’m withdrawing my name as a candidate for Speaker-Designee."

"If you look at over the last few weeks, if you look at where our conference is, there's still work to be done. Our conference still has to come together and is not there," he continued. "There are still some people that have their own agendas. And I was very clear we have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs. This country is counting on us to come back together."

"This House of Representatives needs a speaker, and we need to open up the House again. But clearly, not everybody is there," Scalise said. "And there are still schisms that have to get resolved. I never came here for a title -- I've had some great titles. I'm the Majority Leader of the House, and I love the job I have."

Repeating that he was not searching for another title, the majority leader stressed that the speaker's role was "much bigger than me, and it's much bigger than anybody else, and nobody is gonna use me as an excuse to hold back our ability to get the House opened again. We still need to get a speaker, and I'm going to push as hard as I can to make that happen as quickly as it has to happen."

As reporters began to shout questions as Scalise began to walk away, he stopped and added for the record, "I've cut no deals with anybody. I'm sure there will be a lot of people that look at it. But it's got to be people that aren't doing it for themselves and their own personal interests."

Jordan emerges as top candidate, may face same fate as Scalise

Rep. Scalise, who has not withdrawn from his role as majority leader, declined to endorse anybody else as his preferred choice to be the next speaker, resulting in a sort of wide-open race to determine who will eventually replace former Speaker McCarthy.

According to a series of updates from NBC News on the House speaker race, it now appears that House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH), who lost to Scalise on Wednesday to earn the nomination that Scalise has now declined, has moved up to be the frontrunner to be chosen as the next House speaker.

However, even as support for a Jordan speakership grows -- including an endorsement from McCarthy, who some members are also seeking to reinstall as speaker -- there remains a strong possibility that, like Scalise before him, Jordan will be unable to garner enough support to clear 217 votes on the House floor, as there is a solid contingent of GOP members who will refuse to back him in that position.

There are a few other names of possible speaker candidates that have been floated and a couple of members who have declared their own candidacy, but they either don't want the demanding job or have even less support from their colleagues than Scalise did or Jordan currently does.

House remains stuck and unable to work for now

The NBC News briefs detailed the flurry of activity Friday with closed-door meetings and running commentary from members coming and going to those meetings, but despite some optimism that a new speaker nominee could be chosen at some point in the day, a general consensus appears to have formed that a decision may not be made until next week.

In the meantime, the House remains essentially paralyzed and incapable of handling its normal legislative duties that are becoming more pressing by the day in light of approaching deadlines and serious developments internationally that may require congressional action.

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