Washington — House Republicans will convene for an internal meeting Friday morning to try to chart a path forward for selecting a new nominee for speaker after Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who earned the nod just two days ago,.
Scalise’s announcement late Thursday came amid mounting opposition to his candidacy from the fractured GOP conference’s right flank, making it unlikely he could secure the 217 votes needed to win the gavel in a vote on the House floor. House Republicansfor speaker over Rep. Jim Jordan, a conservative firebrand who leads the Judiciary Committee, in a closed-door vote Wednesday.
Scalise told reporters he made his decision to withdraw in hopes that a candidate could emerge who could bring the party together.
“Our conference still has to come together and is not there,” he said. “There are still some people that have 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.”
“A ship that doesn’t have a rudder”
Scalise’s exit adds to the chaos that has enveloped the GOP conference since Rep. Kevin McCarthy wasin an last week. The House is now in its second week without a leader, leaving one chamber of Congress effectively paralyzed until a speaker is elected.
“We are a ship that doesn’t have a rudder right now,” Rep. Mark Alford, a freshman member from Texas, told reporters Thursday, adding that “this is a troubling time for members who came here to do serious business.”
The dysfunction among Republicans comes as lawmakers are confronting ato fund the government and rising pressure to respond to the following the brutal attacks by Hamas nearly one week ago. Still, despite the issues requiring congressional action, it’s unclear who in the GOP can win the broad backing required to become speaker.
Supporters of Jordan, who secured 99 votes during the secret ballot vote earlier this week, have suggested he can win the gavel, though his candidacy will likely run into resistance from moderate Republicans. Jordan co-founded the conservative House Freedom Caucus and was a key player in the 2013 government shutdown. The Ohio Republican is also one of the most vocal defenders of former President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill and is playing a leading role in the impeachment inquiry into President Biden.
While Jordan’s allies have said he is the only Republican who can win 217 votes, Rep. Mike Garcia of California indicated some GOP lawmakers would be turned away from supporting the Ohio conservative following the week’s events.
“There’s an academic debate about whether we reward, you know, the tyranny of the minority in this case,” he said, adding that while he supports Jordan, “there’s enough people that would see what has happened and transpired over the last 40 hours to not support him, that we’re going to have the same problem with Jordan that we had with Scalise. So, I think it’s a math problem.”
The prospect of a protracted fight among Republicans over a speaker candidate has prompted some questions of whether the House should act to temporarily expand the authority of Rep. Patrick McHenry, who is leading the chamber in the interim as speaker pro tempore. McHenry was appointed to the post by McCarthy following his removal, though the historic nature of the situation has left the House with no precedent to reference.
The scope of McHenry’s authority beyond overseeing the election of a new speaker is unclear.