Scalise seeks votes as fight over GOP chairs drags on | ET REALITY


Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana on Thursday sought support to be elected speaker as Republicans resisted supporting their party’s chosen candidate, leaving the House leaderless and the GOP in chaos.

A day after being narrowly nominated for president during a closed-door secret ballot race among House Republicans, Scalise, their No. 2 leader, was still far from the 217 votes needed to be elected to the full House. Supporters of his rival, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, said they would not give up, citing the far-right lawmaker’s popularity among the Republican base.

“That was the internal race; now the outside race begins,” Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Jordan supporter, said Wednesday of the nomination. “And by at least four to one, the Republicans who elect us prefer Jim Jordan over Steve Scalise.”

Massie suggested that some lawmakers who privately backed Scalise would not want to upset their party’s most ardent supporters, particularly after former President Donald J. Trump endorsed Jordan, a founder of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. “There may be some people who privately voted for Scalise but publicly won’t do so,” Massie said.

Compounding the drama, some senior Republicans refrained from publicly supporting Scalise and instead allowed resistance against him in their ranks to fester. Jordan had yet to give a full endorsement to Scalise despite having indicated his support. And Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the ousted former president who has a frosty relationship with Scalise, said the Louisiana Republican had overestimated his support and might not be able to recover.

“It’s possible; however, it’s a big hill,” McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol as he entered a meeting with Scalise. “I had told a lot of people it was going to be at 150. It wasn’t there.”

It was the latest notable twist in a saga that has been marked by whiplash, shifting alliances and petty grudges. The situation has highlighted major changes in the nature of the House Republican Conference, whose members once obediently lined up to support their elected leaders but increasingly appear to be pursuing an every-member-for-themselves strategy. .

Uncertainty has hampered the House at a time of internal and external crises, with U.S. allies at war in Israel and Ukraine and a government shutdown looming next month if Congress cannot reach a spending deal.

Some Republicans were already discussing the possibility of ditching Scalise and rallying around an alternative candidate who would be able to unite their ranks in a way that he has not been able to. Among the names mentioned were Representatives Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of the Rules Committee, and Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, who was named acting speaker after Mr. McCarthy’s ouster.

McHenry indicated he was not whipping votes for any candidate, including himself, while attempting to remain a neutral arbiter of the process.

“I’m trying to act as a facilitator so we can elect a president,” he said.

Still, Scalise and his team were working to try to shore up their support, working by phone and holding one-on-one meetings with holdouts. A brief session was scheduled for noon, although no votes were scheduled. Republicans were expected to meet privately immediately afterward.

The range of complaints against Scalise ran the gamut, crossing ideological and regional lines and reflecting the many competing factions among House Republicans.

Some detractors were simply loyal to Mr. Jordan or Mr. McCarthy. Some believed Scalise was not sufficiently aligned with Trump’s agenda or the demands of the Freedom Caucus, although he is deeply conservative. One member responded that Scalise was too closely aligned with Trump and did not respect the results of the 2020 election. Another, Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, sharply criticized Scalise on national television for a meeting she attended decades ago with white nationalists, for which he apologized.

Still others, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, cited Mr. Scalise’s cancer diagnosis. And some complained that he had not paid them enough attention.

Rep. George Santos of New York, who is under federal indictment over fraud allegations, said on the social media site “So I made my decision and after 10 months and having had no contact or contact with him, I came to the conclusion that my VOTE doesn’t matter to him.” Mr. Santos wrote.

In private meetings, Scalise was offering a series of promises to try to win over holdouts, in a scene reminiscent of what McCarthy went through during his 15-round fight to be elected president in January.

Scalise discussed changing House rules with Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, policy chair of the Freedom Caucus, who said he was “not happy” with the way the Louisiana Republican’s team shot down his ideas in a meeting conference. Roy also noted that Scalise had only a “slight” lead over Jordan, whom he defeated by just 14 votes.

Scalise was winning over some of his critics. He defeated Rep. Anna Paulina Luna of Florida by promising to continue the impeachment inquiry into President Biden that McCarthy had ordered. Luna told reporters on Capitol Hill that she had told Scalise that she would try to defund Jack Smith, the special counsel,’s investigation into Trump and issue a subpoena for testimony from Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

“He will allow me to do my job aggressively,” Luna said after the meeting. She added that Scalise was “definitely someone the Biden administration should not trifle with.”

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