Steve Scalise has no votes and the Republican Party is divided

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

Drew Angler |

Republican lawmakers remained divided Thursday over their nomination of Rep. Steve Scalise as House speaker, raising the possibility that the chamber will once again face a drawn-out election with multiple rounds of votes.

With the House so narrowly divided, the Republican majority leader from Louisiana currently does not appear to have the 217 Republican votes needed to win the speakership.

Scalise narrowly defeated Ohio Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, 113 to 99, for the party nomination.

“The conversations we’ve had with our colleagues over the past few days have made it clear that we need to get back to work,” Scalise said after winning the nomination Wednesday.

But the party remains divided after an internal vote, and the House adjourned Wednesday night without a full chamber vote on Scalise’s candidacy. It’s unclear when Scalise will face the House.

Republicans held a hours-long closed-door meeting Thursday to discuss a path forward, but several Republican lawmakers told NBC News they didn’t know what next steps to take to resolve the impasse.

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

Green joked that Scalise would have to face multiple rounds of voting. California Rep. Kevin McCarthy faced 15 votes before being elected speaker in January.

“If Kevin McCarthy has to go through 15 rounds of voting, the next speaker should be able to do the same and even more if necessary,” Green said.

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Jordan publicly endorsed Scalise and encouraged his fellow Republicans to vote for the Louisiana congressman in the House.

Jordan said the war between Israel and Hamas demanded a swift election of the speaker. The House has been without leadership for more than a week after a group of far-right Republicans plotted to oust McCarthy.

“It’s important that we restore the functionality of the House. We need a speaker, and Steve is the right person,” said Jordan, who offered to deliver Scalise’s nomination speech.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, who led the effort to oust McCarthy, also expressed support for Scalise.

Scalise’s hard fight

McCarthy said Thursday that Scalise faces an uphill battle to get enough Republican votes in the House to become speaker: “It’s not going to be easy,” McCarthy said.

Scalise could only afford to lose four Republican votes and still retain the speakership.

On Wednesday afternoon, at least six Republican lawmakers publicly said they would not vote for Scalise in the House, with several insisting they would support Jordan despite his calls for party unity. Jordan was endorsed by former President Donald Trump in the speaker’s race.

Republican lawmakers who have spoken out against Scalise include Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, Virginia Rep. Bob Good, Georgia Rep. Greene, Decker Rep. Chip Roy of Sasse, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Rep. Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvania.

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

The House of Representatives is effectively paralyzed, unable to move forward on major matters until someone is elected Speaker.

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

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

Jordan sounded less confident Wednesday when asked whether Scalise could veto the speaker’s gavel with one vote: “I hope so. That’s the plan,” the congressman from Ohio said.

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