Scalise Taps Out, Jordan Prepares to Take the Fight to the Floor
Steve Scalise ends his bid for Speaker of the House. Will Jordan ultimately win the grapple for the gavel?
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
“If the doctors didn't sign off, I wouldn't be doing this,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority leader currently vying for a promotion to Speaker of the House, told Fox News last week.
While the doctors may have signed off, some of Scalise’s colleagues in the House GOP did not.
“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,” tweeted Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. “We need a Speaker who is able to put their full efforts into defeating the communist democrats and save America.”
Former President Donald Trump, who previously endorsed Jordan, told Fox News Thursday that “Steve is a man that is in serious trouble, from the standpoint of his cancer. I mean, he’s got to get better. For himself. I’m not talking about even country now."
At a House Republican conference meeting on Wednesday, Scalise bested Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio in a vote for the Speaker’s nomination 113-99. But 113 was a far cry from the 217 votes Scalise would have needed to secure the Speakership on the House floor.
By Thursday evening, Scalise had withdrawn his name from consideration. “We have to come together for the country,” Scalise said after abandoning hopes for becoming the next Speaker. “It’s much bigger than me or anybody else, and nobody’s going to use me as an excuse to hold back our ability to get the House open again,” Scalise added, per POLITICO.
Despite his apparent victory at the Wednesday meeting, several members of the House GOP declared they would not be voting for Scalise on the floor in the aftermath.
“I will be voting for Jim Jordan to be Speaker of the House on the floor when the vote is called,” tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert, who recently talked to The American Conservative about her endorsement of Jordan for Speaker and the qualities he would bring to the role. “The American people deserve a real change in leadership, not a continuation of the status quo,” the tweet concluded. Jordan, on the other hand, had offered Scalise his support, including making a speech in favor of his nomination, after the Ohio representative’s apparent defeat.
Virginia’s Rep. Bob Good, another representative that recently spoke to TAC about the grapple for the gavel, also tweeted that he’d support Jordan on the House floor because “the country cannot afford the status quo.”
Greene isn’t alone in her concerns over Scalise’s health. “It is a concern for a lot of members,” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas told Glenn Beck in an interview prior to Scalise withdrawing from the race. “It is part of the reason why I think he's having trouble getting to 217.”
Roy was among the Republicans who said they would not vote for Scalise if the vote went to the floor. “For me, the next man up mentality, the ‘hey, let’s just do another person who has been in Washington for 20 years,’ the majority leader and boom, you’re the speaker, as opposed to somebody who’s not really of the swamp,” Roy explained to Beck. “We need a trajectory change.”
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Jordan supporter who recently spoke to TAC about Jordan’s plan to avoid a holiday omnibus, also announced he’d withhold his support from Scalise because the Louisiana Congressman “has not articulated a viable plan for avoiding an omnibus.” Other members, including Reps. Max Miller of Ohio, Victoria Spartz of Indiana, Barry Moore of Alabama, and Florida’s Rep. Carlos Gimenez (who said he’d vote for McCarthy on the floor), are currently withholding their votes from Scalise.
“The primary quality” that Rep. Eli Crane is looking for in the next Speaker “is integrity”:
We need someone who gives their word and sticks to it. Conservatives struck a deal with McCarthy that he would complete the twelve appropriations bills at a certain level, and he ultimately didn’t stick to that deal. The American people are tired of it. Do what you say you’re going to do. Second, we need someone who understands that this country is in dire straits. We need a leader who is going to be willing to take a stand and crush the status quo. We don’t have a conservative conference–I’m not blind to that fact, but we need a fresh start.
Who currently meets those qualifications, Crane wouldn’t say. “In all honesty, if I publicly endorsed my pick then it might sink that individual’s chance of becoming speaker,” Crane told TAC via email. “So I will keep my powder dry until we start voting.”
When the House GOP conference met again Thursday, Scalise tried to assuage some hesitant members about their concerns. On his way into the meeting, Scalise told Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News that, “Members still want to talk through a number of things about the direction of the conference. We’re going to do that.”
As for striking a deal with conservatives to shore up his support, Scalise told Sherman, “No side deals…let’s have this in full view of everybody. No side deals. No secret meetings.”
Hours later, Scalise would scrap his ambitions for Speaker of the House. Scalise was unconvincing in the Thursday meeting, according to sources familiar to the matter. What happened after the meeting seems to give credence to this claim—Rep. Anna Paulina Luna flipped from yes to no on Speaker Scalise. Six hard no’s against Scalise were among those who gave remarks at the Thursday meeting.
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And Republican leadership was not particularly keen on giving such a vision. One unnamed Republican told John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News that Scalise, “Just rambled and didn’t directly answer questions. No plan. Didn’t unify or inspire the conference.”
Once Scalise removed himself from the picture, Jordan, who never officially withdrew his name from the Speaker’s race, was reportedly back to working the phones trying to rally support. But with no path to 217 for Scalise, the same could be the case for Jordan. According to Punchbowl News, Jordan’s initial public no votes include Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Mike Simpson, Ann Wagner, and Austin Scott, who later declared a bid against Jordan for Speaker just minutes before the conference vote on their nominee replacement Friday.
When push came to shove, however, Scott said he’d be willing to support Jordan if the vote came to the floor. Though some House Republicans decided to go home prior to the Friday festivities, the Republicans that stayed voted 124-81 in favor of Jordan. And when House Republicans held a subsequent vote on if House members would vote for Jordan on the floor, Jordan was still about 60 votes short. Unlike Scalise, that might not stop the Ohio wrestler from taking the fight to the floor.