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Steve Scalise does not appear to have votes to become speaker as GOP remains divided

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) waits to speak during a news conference after a caucus meeting with House Republicans on Capitol Hill May 10, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

Republican lawmakers remained divided Thursday after nominating Rep. Steve Scalise as their candidate for speaker of the House of Representatives, raising the prospect that the lower chamber will once again face a drawn-out election with multiple rounds of voting.

The GOP majority leader from Louisiana does not appear to have the 217 Republican votes needed to win the speaker’s gavel at this time given the tight margin in the closely divided House.

Scalise secured his party’s nomination Wednesday after defeating Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio in a narrow 113-to-99 vote during a closed-door meeting.

“The conversations we’ve been having with my colleagues over the last few days leading up to this show that there’s a resolve that we need to get back to work,” Scalise said after winning the nomination Wednesday.

But the party remained divided after the internal ballot and the House adjourned Wednesday evening without a full floor vote on Scalise’s candidacy. It is unclear when Scalise will face the House. The GOP has scheduled another closed-door meeting at 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, one of the GOP lawmakers who remains opposed to Scalise, said the Louisiana congressman should face a floor vote Thursday rather than another closed-door party meeting.

Greene teased the prospect that Scalise will have to face multiple rounds of voting. Rep. Kevin McCarthy faced 15 ballots before he was elected speaker in January.

“If Kevin McCarthy had to go 15 rounds then the next Speaker should be able to do the same or more if they have to,” Greene said.

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Jordan has come out publicly in support of Scalise and encouraged his fellow Republicans to vote for the Louisiana congressman on the House floor.

Jordan said the war between Israel and Hamas demands the swift election of a speaker. The House has been leaderless for more than a week after a faction of hard-right Republicans engineered the ouster of McCarthy.

“It’s important we’re back functioning as a House of Representatives. We need a speaker and Steve is the guy for that,” said Jordan, who has offered to give the nomination speech for Scalise.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who led the ouster of McCarthy, has also indicated he supports for Scalise.

McCarthy said Thursday that Scalise faces an uphill battle in securing enough votes from Republicans on the House floor to become speaker: “It’s not an easy task,” McCarthy said.

Scalise can only afford to lose four Republican votes and still secure the speakership.

At least six GOP lawmakers publicly stated Wednesday afternoon that they would not vote for Scalise on the House floor, with several insisting they would back Jordan despite his calls for party unity. Jordan had the backing of former President Donald Trump in the speaker’s race.

GOP lawmakers who voiced opposition to Scalise publicly include Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Bob Good of Virginia, Greene of Georgia, Chip Roy of Texas, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania.

“Rep. Jordan has a concrete plan to move the Republican conference forward,” Green said in a social media post Thursday. “I urge my colleagues to join me in support of Jim Jordan for Speaker of the House!”

The House is effectively in a state of paralysis, unable to move forward with major items of business until someone is elected speaker.

President Joe Biden on Tuesday said his administration would ask Congress to take “urgent action” to fund the national security needs of U.S. partners after the devastating Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel.

Congress also needs to pass spending legislation by Nov. 17 to avoid a government shutdown.

Jordan did not sound confident Wednesday when asked whether Scalise could secure the speaker’s gavel in one vote: “I hope so. That’s the plan,” the congressman from Ohio said.

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