House Republicans took a step toward electing a new speaker on Wednesday as they chose Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana to be their nominee. But it’s not clear that Scalise can convince enough of his fellow Republicans to provide the 217 votes he will need to win the speakership in a full vote on the floor.
The closed-door vote within the GOP conference was close, with the bare minimum of 113 members backing Scalise, while another 99 voted for Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. The House has gone into recess as Scalise works to build support and tries to avoid the kind of bruising, lengthy fight that ousted speaker Kevin McCarthy endured in January.
Democrats chose Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York as their nominee on Tuesday night, and he is expected to win unanimous support from the Democratic caucus in any floor vote.
Internal battle continues: Multiple Republicans have indicated that they will not support Scalise, who can afford to lose just four votes within his conference given the closely divided House.
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas told reporters he is a “hard no” on Scalise, at least for the moment, because he disagreed with the “rushed” process Republicans had used. House Republicans rejected a temporary rule change Roy had proposed that would have required the speaker nominee to lock down 217 votes before holding a floor vote, thereby preventing the House GOP’s internal conflicts from playing out in public.
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said on social media that Scalise “doesn’t have my vote on the floor, because he has not articulated a viable plan for avoiding an omnibus” — a reference to the all-in-one budget package that Congress often relies on to fund the government and is opposed by many conservatives.
Some Republicans say they plan to vote for McCarthy, who was voted out of the speakership last week. Others say they will vote for Jordan, even though he lost today’s nomination vote and has called on his supporters to back Scalise.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said she remained in the Jordan camp.
“I like Steve Scalise, and I like him so much that I want to see him defeat cancer more than sacrifice his health in the most difficult position in Congress,” she wrote, referring to Scalise’s recent diagnosis with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. “We need a Speaker who is able to put their full efforts into defeating the communist democrats and save America,” Greene added.
The Georgia Republican also said that while she backs Jordan over Scalise, she would prefer former president Donald Trump as speaker over either of them.
Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado also said she would vote for Jordan and accused “the Swamp and K Street lobbyists” of working to prevent “a real change in leadership” in the House.
The bottom line: There is no firm date for the speaker vote, which could occur as soon as tomorrow or could face a longer delay. The timing will depend on Scalise, who is still working to win over the members he needs — but, given the entrenched positions of some in his party, may not be able to do so.