Scalise nominated by U.S. House GOP as speaker in closed-door meeting
WASHINGTON — Uncertainty and party infighting over the next U.S. House speaker prevailed at the Capitol Wednesday evening, despite a majority of Republicans picking Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise as their nominee behind closed doors earlier in the day.
The chamber adjourned and was scheduled to return at noon Thursday to again try to elect a speaker.
Within hours of the vote, several GOP members declared they would not vote for Scalise on the floor, teeing up another fight that could repeat January’s days-long speaker battle.
“Surprises are for little kids at birthday parties, not Congress. So, I let Scalise know in person that he doesn’t have my vote on the floor, because he has not articulated a viable plan for avoiding an omnibus,” Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky posted on X, referring to debate over how to approve government funding.
Republicans have until mid-November to strike a deal before a short-term funding measure expires.
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Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry of North Carolina gaveled the chamber into session at approximately 3 p.m. Eastern and recessed moments later, indicating the conference had not yet found the votes needed to decide on the speaker.
The nominee can only lose a handful of Republican votes, as no Democrats are expected to vote for a GOP nominee. They have nominated House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York for the post.
The Republicans who say they will instead continue to support Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio — who was defeated by Scalise earlier Wednesday — include Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Michael Cloud and Chip Roy of Texas, Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, Carlos Gimenez of Florida, Bob Good of Virginia, Nancy Mace of South Carolina, Max Miller of Ohio, Barry Moore of Alabama and Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania.
Miller said he’d back Jordan “because he’s not in leadership.”
“Trust has been shattered in that room,” Miller said. “The only way, in my opinion, that you regain that trust is with a whole new set of people.”
Florida’s Rep. Anna Paulina Luna who earlier Wednesday said she would support Jordan later switched.
“After talking to Representative Scalise, I feel very confident that he’s going to allow us to aggressively pursue justice for this country and this nation, and so I’ll be supporting him on the floor,” she said just after 5:30 p.m. Eastern.
Meanwhile other members began declaring runs for other leadership positions.
Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma told reporters as he left the morning meeting that he will run for House majority leader.
“I promise you no one will outwork me, listen more carefully, or advance the Republican legislative agenda more faithfully than me,” Hern wrote on X.
Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota was calling other members to gauge a run for majority leader, according to a House aide speaking on background. Emmer earlier had expressed interest in the post.
Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York posted to X that “Now is NOT the time to be campaigning for other leadership positions, House Republicans must work to unite to elect the Speaker – and that is my focus as Conference Chair at this important time.”
Upon receiving the nomination, Scalise urged colleagues to fill the speaker’s seat and again begin the business of the lower chamber.
The next step for Scalise, who currently is the majority leader, will be garnering the support of nearly all his GOP colleagues to win a floor vote to become speaker, replacing former Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California.
“We need to make sure we’re sending a message to people all throughout the world, and that the House is open and doing the people’s business,” Scalise told reporters after the meeting.
Scalise did not confirm whether he had all the votes from his party to take the gavel, but said “we’re gonna have to go upstairs on the House floor and resolve this and get the House reopened again.”
Florida Rep. Kat Cammack said after the closed-door meeting that she didn’t believe Scalise had the votes needed on the floor to become speaker.
“I think that what’s going to happen at three o’clock is going to be a continuation of the chaos that has plagued the House.”
Scalise’s path to the nomination was smoothed when Republicans tabled a proposal by Roy during their closed-door meeting to change the rules on how a nominee was selected, raising the threshold. Without that change, Scalise was able to defeat Jordan with a simple majority.
When asked whether he would vote for Scalise, Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, chair of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, said “We’re going to go figure it out. Vote’s pretty close.”
“We need to quit having this place run the way it’s run,” he added on how he could be convinced to support the Louisiana Republican.
Reps. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Ashley Hinson of Iowa and John James of Michigan gave nominating speeches for Scalise.
Reps. Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, Erin Houchin of Indiana and Mike Carey of Ohio nominated Jordan, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Reps. Tim Burchett of Tennessee and Matt Gaetz of Florida who voted to oust McCarthy said they would support Scalise on the floor.
“Long live speaker Scalise,” Gaetz, who filed the motion to vacate McCarthy, said.
The new speaker will have several crises to address as soon as the swearing-in is over.
The first task will likely be addressing the situation in Israel, which is under an ongoing attack from Hamas and possibly other organizations.
Scalise said, if elected speaker, one of the first orders of business for the House is to pass a resolution showing the United States’ support for Israel.
Congress will need to approve supplemental funding expected to be requested by President Joe Biden, an issue that will garner strong bipartisan support. Biden has said he wants Congress to take “urgent action” on Israel’s security needs.
Scalise, if elected speaker, will need to work with the Democratic Senate to pass some type of government funding bill ahead of a Nov. 17 deadline. Additional aid to Ukraine could be attached to that package, or a bill carrying aid to Israel.
Scalise also would be tasked with fundraising, protecting centrist Republicans and wrangling far-right conservatives to support his agenda.
Samantha Dietel contributed to this report.