Republican congressman Steve Scalise has announced that he is ending his bid to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives, after failing to secure enough support from his own party. Scalise, who is the House majority leader and a hardline conservative from Louisiana, said he made the decision after realizing that the Republican majority “still has to come together and is not there”.
Scalise had been nominated by a majority of his colleagues on Wednesday, but faced strong opposition from a faction of hard-right lawmakers who are loyal to former president Donald Trump. They argued that Scalise was not a suitable replacement for Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted from the speaker’s job last week in a historic vote that exposed the deep divisions within the GOP.
Scalise said he took every question thrown his way and pledged to work through the issues raised by his critics, but admitted that there were still some people who had 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,” he said.
House remains leaderless and dysfunctional
Scalise’s withdrawal leaves the House without a clear leader and in a state of dysfunction, as the Republicans struggle to elect a speaker who can unite their fractured conference and govern effectively. The standoff over the speakership was sparked by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, who led a rebellion against McCarthy with the backing of Trump.
The House has not held any votes since McCarthy’s ouster, and is essentially closed while the Republicans try to find a way out of the crisis. The political pressure is mounting on them to reverse course, reassert majority control and resume congressional business, as several urgent issues await their action.
Among them are the need to fund the government before a potential federal shutdown in a month, and the desire to deliver a strong statement of support for Israel in its war with Hamas. A bipartisan resolution on the latter issue has been sidelined by the stalemate in the House.
Jordan drops out of speaker race, endorses Scalise
One of Scalise’s main rivals for the speaker’s job, Jim Jordan, announced earlier on Thursday that he was dropping out of the race and throwing his support behind Scalise. Jordan, who is the chair of the judiciary committee and a favorite of the hard-liners, said he made the decision after consulting with Trump and other allies.
“I think Steve Scalise is the best person to lead our conference right now,” Jordan said. “He has proven himself as a leader who can work with everyone in our party, and he has the respect of our colleagues and the American people.”
Jordan said he hoped his endorsement would help Scalise win over some of the holdouts who were still opposed to his candidacy. However, it was not enough to overcome the resistance from some of Trump’s most loyal supporters, who have vowed to continue their fight for a speaker who reflects their views and agenda.
Possible scenarios for resolving the speaker crisis
With Scalise out of the picture, there are few options left for resolving the speaker crisis. One possibility is that McCarthy could try to reclaim his position, if he can persuade enough Republicans to change their minds and support him. However, this seems unlikely, as McCarthy has faced harsh criticism from Trump and his allies for his handling of the January 6 insurrection and his failure to defend Trump during his second impeachment trial.
Another possibility is that a new candidate could emerge from within the Republican ranks, who can bridge the gap between the moderates and the hard-liners. Some names that have been floated include Liz Cheney, Tom Cole, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Elise Stefanik. However, none of them have expressed any interest in running for speaker so far, and they may face similar challenges as Scalise did in winning over both sides of their party.
A third possibility is that the Republicans could reach out to the Democrats and form a coalition to elect a bipartisan speaker. This would require at least 26 Republicans to join forces with all 222 Democrats to reach a majority of 218 votes. However, this would be seen as a betrayal by many Republicans, especially Trump supporters, who would accuse them of siding with their political enemies.
The final possibility is that the House could remain without a speaker indefinitely, until either one party gains enough seats in a special election or midterm election to elect their own speaker, or until one party decides to concede and accept whoever is nominated by the other party. However, this would mean that the House would continue to be paralyzed and unable to perform its legislative duties.