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Scalise bows out of speaker race

House GOP will meet Friday to try to settle on a path forward

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., talks with reporters after a conference meeting in the Capitol on Thursday.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., talks with reporters after a conference meeting in the Capitol on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise ended his bid for speaker just a day after winning his conference’s nomination to be the next House leader, putting Rep. Jim Jordan in the driver’s seat for the nomination, which could be decided as early as Friday.

Scalise, R-La., told Republicans in a closed-door meeting late Thursday night that he would drop out of the race.

“I just shared with my colleagues that I’m withdrawing my name as a candidate for speaker-designee,” Scalise told reporters. “We have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs. … There’s still schisms that have to get resolved.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was speaker until his stunning ouster last week, said after the meeting Thursday night that Scalise would remain majority leader.

There was a touch of hope tinged with bitterness in Scalise’s concession comments.

“I’m the majority leader of the House, and I love the job I have. And I still have a deep, deep passion for making sure we get our country back on track to get our conference fixed again,” Scalise said. “But there’s some folks that really need to look in the mirror over the next couple of days and decide to get back on track or are they going to try to pursue their own agenda. You can’t do both.”

The sharp turnaround came after at least a dozen GOP lawmakers said publicly they wouldn’t vote for Scalise to be speaker, and some estimated an even higher number would oppose him, perhaps up to 30.

Jordan, R-Ohio, was also running for speaker after McCarthy’s ouster from the job. But it wasn’t immediately clear if he could lock up the votes to become speaker on the floor.

“Tomorrow we’re going to meet as a conference, I think we will come together behind a candidate, and then we will move forward for the good of the country,” Jordan said Thursday night. “Any type of announcement about what may or may not happen, I think is best done tomorrow.”

Jordan secured just 99 votes to Scalise’s 113 during Wednesday’s internal GOP conference vote. But several Republicans leaving Thursday night’s meeting wanted to give him the chance.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, leaves a House Republican Conference meeting in the Capitol on the speaker nomination on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“I think he can [get the votes],” Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said. “The country loves Jim Jordan. He’s a great spokesman…. We’ll see, but I think he’ll get there.”

Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., added that Jordan was the “obvious choice” in light of Scalise bowing out.

“He’s the only man in the room that can rally 217 votes,” Banks said. “The best thing Republicans can do is get behind and make him the speaker. Do it. Do it tonight. Do it right now.”

Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., one of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy last week, didn’t say whom he’ll support, but he said “I think we should give [Jordan] a chance to see if he can put it together and get the votes necessary to to go forward.”

The House has been without a speaker for over a week, grinding its legislative business to a halt ahead of a Nov. 17 government funding deadline and amid a war in Israel.

Friday meeting

The GOP conference is expected to meet at 10 a.m. Friday, Jordan and other lawmakers said.

They would then vote on an internal rule change akin to one offered by Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, on Wednesday that the conference rejected, which would set the bar for nominating a speaker candidate at 217 votes rather than a simple majority of the conference.

There could be amendments to the rule change proposal offered as well, Republicans said, including to lower the threshold from 217 but still ensure a viable candidate reached the floor. Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., noted that McCarthy got 188 votes in conference before going to the floor in January and — eventually, after 15 rounds of voting — becoming speaker.

Garcia, a moderate from a district that backed President Joe Biden in 2020, said he’d support Jordan, a fiery conservative and Freedom Caucus founder.

Some Republicans had already left Washington on Thursday, members said, which posed something of a logistical hurdle. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-N.J., said anyone who left might need to come back to vote.

Other names have also begun to percolate as Scalise lost support. In addition to Jordan, Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., wrote on X that some possibilities include Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern of Oklahoma; Rep. Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee; and former Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., who lost a gubernatorial bid last year.

Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., said Jordan has a shot to win, but that “it’s gonna be hard” because of some lingering ill will towards the Ohioan. “Personally, I think it may end up being a compromise candidate,” Murphy said, naming Hern as well as current interim Speaker Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., and Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla.

But Hern said he wasn’t running for the job, and that he’d give Jordan the first shot at securing the votes to become speaker.

Others were also circumspect about Jordan’s chances. Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a moderate Problem Solvers Caucus member, said nominating Jordan would be rewarding “bad behavior” and predicted others would run.

McCarthy didn’t entirely close the door on making a last-ditch bid to be reinstated, saying that’s for the conference to decide.

McCarthy brought up in his comments Thursday night that it was a tiny minority of his party who put Republicans in their current predicament, brought on by the former speaker’s move to bring up a bipartisan continuing resolution to avert a partial government shutdown.

“How do you allow 4 percent of the conference do this to the entire country?” McCarthy said. “I’ll say to this day, what I did was 100 percent right. Keeping government open. Can you imagine for one moment, the wars that are going around the world, and if government was shut down?”

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., a Jordan supporter, said the main issue facing the conference right now was the ability of anyone to get 217 votes, since all it takes is five “no” votes to sink a candidate.

“There’s probably five ‘never everybody’s’ — that’s the problem,” Malliotakis said.

Daniel Hillburn, Mary Ellen McIntire and Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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