Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., speaks to reporters after a closed-door meeting of House Republicans during which he was nominated as their candidate for Speaker of the House, on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023 in Washington. InternationalIndiaAfricaUS House Republicans want to avoid a repeat of the chaotic process that formerly made Kevin McCarthy speaker earlier this year, but a congressional source told Sputnik that Scalise likely still lacks sufficient support within his party.House Republicans selected Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) to be the party’s nominee for speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday in a secret ballot that saw the lower chamber’s majority leader win the vote of 113 of 221 party members.At present, a floor vote for the entire House of Representatives remains unscheduled. Scalise will need to win the votes of 217 House representatives to become speaker if all members of the body are present. All members of the minority Democratic Party are expected to vote for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), meaning Scalise will need to increase his margin of support among Republicans to clinch a victory.A source within Congress has told Sputnik they believe a full vote of the House will be delayed, saying they “don’t know that Scalise has the votes to bring it to the floor.” This echoes earlier sentiments expressed by Capitol Hill insiders speculating he still lacks enough support from his colleagues to win a full confirmation vote.As House members work to fill the leadership void left after Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) dismissal just over a week ago, here’s what you need to know about Republicans’ current nominee for the speakership.
Scalise is a Southerner representing Louisiana’s First Congressional District. The southernmost congressional district in the state, it’s also the most Republican. The Cook Political Report gives Republicans a typical advantage of about 23% in the district, making it more Republican than the district represented by McCarthy and one of the most heavily-Republican House districts in the country.The district covers Republican-leaning suburbs of New Orleans and a small portion of the city, as well as the cities of Slidell and Houma. The district was redrawn in the 1970s to ensure Louisiana complied with the Voting Rights Act, a Civil Rights bill passed to ensure states with a history of racial discrimination provided congressional representation to African Americans and other racial minorities on par with their statewide population.Scalise has represented the district since 2008 and last won reelection in 2022 with more than 70% of the vote. He has never received less than 65% of the vote during his time in the House, meaning his continued reelection is all but assured. Parties in the US Congress often prefer to choose figures with high popularity in their districts for top positions to avoid the embarrassment of a member of leadership being removed by voters.
Social and Economic Conservatism
Scalise is a strong conservative in line with the majority right-wing tilt of the Southern United States.He is a Roman Catholic and holds traditionalist views on social issues, opposing marijuana legalization and gay marriage. He also rejects environmental regulation and the premise of anthropogenic climate change.The Louisiana lawmaker is an opponent of US President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act health care legislation. He is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and rejects gun control efforts, earning an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. Scalise remained steadfast in his support for gun rights even after being shot by a political extremist at a congressional baseball game in 2017.Scalise’s conservative views extend to economic issues as well. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), one of the Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy, signaled his support for Scalise, saying, “He understands fiscal conservatism. He has a track record of handling tough legislation in the past, and I think that’s going to serve him very well.”AmericasTick, Tock: US House Lawmakers Prepare for Speaker Showdown After Ousting McCarthy03:00 GMTScalise provoked controversy almost a decade ago when it was revealed that in 2002 he spoke at a convention of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, a white supremacist-aligned group founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Scalise claimed at the time that he was unaware of the group’s views and said speaking at the event was “a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold.”
Strong Trump Ally
In regards to former US President Donald Trump, Scalise has come out as a strong supporter of the former commander-in-chief and has thrown his backing for Trump’s 2024 reelection bid.In 2017, Scalise backed Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban” executive order that barred citizens of seven majority Muslim countries from traveling to the United States. “It’s very prudent to say, ‘Let’s be careful about who comes into our country to make sure that they’re not terrorists,’” Scalise then remarked.Scalise supported Trump’s challenge of the 2020 presidential election results, voting in the House to decertify then President-elect Joe Biden’s wins in Pennsylvania and Arizona. He then backed Trump’s legal efforts to challenge the results and voted against certification of the final Electoral College tally.© AP Photo / Andrew HarnikFILE – President Donald Trump, center, accompanied by from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Vice President Mike Pence, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaks after participating in a Congressional Republican Leadership Retreat at Camp David, Md., Jan. 6, 2018.FILE – President Donald Trump, center, accompanied by from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Vice President Mike Pence, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaks after participating in a Congressional Republican Leadership Retreat at Camp David, Md., Jan. 6, 2018.Crucially, although Scalise criticized the riots at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, he’s never broken from Trump and his claims of election fraud. Scalise continues to maintain that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. McCarthy had claimed Trump’s conduct on January 6 was “atrocious and totally wrong,” although he later made amends with the former president.Scalise’s unwavering defense of Trump may shore up his support among populist elements within the House Republican Party, although it could ultimately make it more difficult to work across the aisle with Democrats in the chamber.
Perilous Times Ahead?
The vote among House Republicans to nominate Scalise for the speakership proved close: Scalise received 113 votes while his main challenger for the position Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) received 99.
Scalise may be seen as a compromise candidate for the speakership in contrast to the establishment-aligned McCarthy and Jordan, the founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
The speaker nominee is currently serving as House majority leader, making him second in command in the chamber and suggesting a high degree of support from establishment elements in the party. Meanwhile, his allyship with Trump boosts his populist credentials.
The lawmaker has so far won the support of a few key House Republicans, including McCarthy. Jordan has also stated his support for Scalise as a consensus pick, planning to offer the nominating speech for him on the House floor when Republicans decide to bring a vote to the full body.Among the eight Republicans who previously voted to oust McCarthy, Scalise so far has the support of Reps. Tim Burchett (R-TN) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who initiated the historic removal effort against McCarthy.“I’m excited for [Scalise],” said Gaetz to reporters on Wednesday. “I can’t wait to go vote for Steve Scalise. Long live Speaker Scalise.”© AFP 2023 / ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDSUS Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks to the press outside the US Capitol after voting in the House in Washington, DC on September 29, 2023.US Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) speaks to the press outside the US Capitol after voting in the House in Washington, DC on September 29, 2023.McCarthy opponent Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) has stated he is undecided about whether he will vote for Scalise, calling him a “status quo” candidate for the speaker position.”It’s hard to envision that he will be a change agent,” said Good. “I think the country recognizes the Congress needs to be changed.”White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to the drama on Wednesday, saying “we want to see the chaos be done with” so that the Biden administration can once again work with Congress to pass legislation.
Although the lower congressional chamber is currently functioning under an unelected speaker pro tempore – Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), House rules dictate the acting leader can only hold proceedings on matters directly related to the election of a new speaker.