Hard-right holdouts may block U.S. House speakership for Steve Scalise

October 13, 2023

The House remained without a speaker on Thursday, October 12, as a small but decisive number of holdouts within the Republican conference blocked Steve Scalise’s ascension to the top job, reports The Guardian.

Scalise, currently the House majority leader, won the Republican conference’s speaker nomination on Wednesday, defeating Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan in a vote of 113 to 99.

Despite Republican leaders’ hopes of quickly holding a floor vote to elect Scalise as speaker, concerns immediately arose among some of the hard-right members of the conference.

Because of the Republicans’ razor-thin majority, Scalise can only afford four defections within the conference and still win the speakership, assuming all 433 current House members participate in the vote. As of Wednesday evening, at least 11 House Republicans had signaled they would not support Scalise on the floor, with several more still undecided.

With no clear path for Scalise to win the 217 votes needed to secure the speakership, the House adjourned Wednesday evening without holding a floor vote. Members planned to reconvene at 12 p.m. on Thursday, but the exact timing of a vote remains unclear.

Several House Republicans indicated they would still support Jordan in a floor vote; even though Jordan, himself, has thrown his support behind Scalise. Jordan has encouraged his allies to support Scalise as well, a source said, but those entreaties have not swayed hard-right skeptics like Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Greene said on Wednesday that she would not support Scalise because of concerns over his health, as the congressman is undergoing chemotherapy treatment for blood cancer.

“I will be voting for Jim Jordan on the House floor,” Greene said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “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.”

The standoff comes one week after the former Republican Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted in a historic first for the House. Although some of McCarthy’s allies had suggested he should run again for the speakership, he showed no sign of jumping into the race on Wednesday.

Leaving a meeting with Scalise, McCarthy said of the holdouts: “Steve’s going to have to talk to them all; see what the concerns are. But I’m supporting Steve.”

Research contact: @guardian