In a surprise move Thursday, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise announced that he is withdrawing his name from the race for the vacant House speaker role.
“I just shared with my colleagues that I’m withdrawing my name as a candidate for the speaker designee,” Scalise told reporters.
The Republican conference on Wednesdayfor the speaker position, which has sat vacant since California Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted last week.
“There are still some people that have their own agendas,” Scalise said of his decision to drop out.
“This House of Representatives needs a speaker and we need to open up the House again,” the Louisiana congressman added. “But clearly, not everybody is there and they’re still schisms that have to get resolved.”
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee,during Wednesday’s closed-door meeting. Scalise received 113.
Jordan late Thursday refused to comment on Scalise’s withdrawal, saying he would address the situation on Friday.
“I think today we ought to focus on a great American like Steve Scalise. Any type of announcement about what may or may not happen I think is best done tomorrow,” Jordan said.
Scalise refused to say Thursday if he would support Jordan’s nomination.
“You still need to get a speaker and I’m going to continue to push as hard as we can to make that happen quickly because it has to happen,” Scalise said.
He also accused some GOP members who had purportedly initially pledged their support to him of “moving the goalposts.”
“There were people that told me they were fine with me three days ago, who were moving the goalposts and making up…reasons why, that had nothing to do … they were saying … there were games being played, and I said, ‘I’m not gonna be a part of it,'” Scalise said.
What Republicans do next is unclear. Without a nominee, Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry remains in place with limited powers. Some Republicans have already left town, but a large number of GOP lawmakers are still in the conference meeting to try to determine how to move forward. Rep. Greg Murphy, of North Carolina, estimated that around 80% of the conference was continuing to meet after Scalise’s announcement.
Murphy told reporters at the Capitol that he thought Jordan should have a chance to see if he could muster the 217 votes necessary to be the nominee, but he also thinks it would “be hard” for him to reach that threshold. He said he thinks the conference may end up settling on a “compromise” candidate and suggested McHenry, Reps. Byron Donalds, of Florida; and Kevin Hern, of Oklahoma, were all “quality people,” who might be able to unite the conference.
Hern had considered running soon after McCarthy’s ouster, and said in a letter to colleagues that he “called, texted or met” with all 221 Republicans in the conference to ask what they wanted to see in their next speaker. He said that he withdrew from the race because he believed a “three-man race for Speaker will only draw this process out longer, creating further division which would make it harder for any candidate to reach 217 votes.”
Hern spoke with reporters as he left the conference meeting. He said he would not challenge Jordan for the speakership but alluded the idea that “there’s some conversations about trying to run as a team,” but said Jordan “did not speak to that,” and Hern did not elaborate.
The Republican nominee for House speaker will need 217 GOP votes to prevail if all members are present and each votes for a candidate.
Scalise faced an uphill battle in getting the necessary votes, with at least, including several of Jordan’s supporters, indicating they would not be voting for him.
Since McCarthy was removed last week, the House has been in recess, seemingly paralyzed from resuming its business until a permanent speaker is selected. Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina is serving as speaker pro tempore in the interim.
On Oct. 3, the House voted by a margin of 216 to 210 to oust McCarthy. Eight far-right Republicans joined all Democrats in voting to remove him, marking the first time in American history that a House speaker has been removed in a no-confidence vote.
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a major critic of McCarthy, forced the vote when he put forth the motion to vacate the office of speaker. Gaetz said his decision came after McCarthy helped passearlier this month to prevent an impending government shutdown. Gaetz claimed that McCarthy had betrayed conservatives in pushing the bill through.
— Melissa Quinn, Ellis Kim and Alan He contributed to this report.