Rep. Steve Scalise has withdrawn from the race to become House Speaker a day after Republicans nominated him for the position in a closed-door meeting. The shocking move comes with the GOP in a state of chaos over the effort to replace Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted from the position last week.
“Our conference still has to come together and is not there,” the Louisiana representative said in a statement. “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.”
“I’ve cut no deals with anybody, he added. “I’m sure there will be a lot of people that look at it, but it’s got to be people that aren’t doing it for themselves and their own personal interests.”
Republicans voted by a narrow margin on Wednesday to nominate Scalise to replace McCarthy, but several lawmakers said after the closed-door meeting that they would not vote for him on the House floor. The number of hold-outs grew over the next 24 hours, making it clear that Scalise was nowhere close to securing the 217 votes he needed to secure the gavel.
“You want to talk about confusing the American people?” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) told CNN late on Thursday. “They think this whole place is a circus up here and all of a sudden Jim Jordan is nominating Steve Scalise and we’re voting for Jim Jordan. That’s just utter chaos.”
Jordan was the other contender for the position, as well as the favorite of former President Donald Trump, who endorsed him last week. It’s unclear whether Jordan will emerge as the nominee, or whether another contender will challenge him in a closed-door vote.
Whatever happens, if the past few weeks are any indication, it’s not going to unfold smoothly. House Republicans fighting over appropriations bills nearly shut down the government late last month, after which Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and seven other hardliners voted to oust McCarthy from the Speakership, leaving the House without a leader. The development split MAGA Republicans, with many attacking Gaetz for plunging the chamber into chaos. The dysfunction continued into this week ahead of and following the vote to nominate Scalise.
Gaetz, who supported Scalise after ousting McCarthy, doesn’t seem too concerned. “People say it’s chaos here just because the special interests don’t have a unified way to control everything,” he told CNN after Scalise announced his withdrawal. “I have no regrets.”