As the Speakership Turns: Scalise withdraws as Republicans continue search for sufficiently strong candidate

by Will Tubbs

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

 

Thursday, a day after being voted as the Republican conferences’ nominee for Speaker of the House, Louisiana Republican Rep. Steve Scalise announced he was no longer seeking the job. 

While stunning in its speed, the content of Scalise’s announcement produced little shock. He only narrowly bested Ohio Congressman and Trump endorsee Jim Jordan in the Republican vote and faced a small but vocal group of conservative detractors who pledged to never vote for him. 

Scalise’s situation quickly became akin to what recently ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) faced in January. McCarthy suffered through 15 rounds of voting before he gave away enough power to Freedom Caucus members to win the speakership. 

The Louisianian faced almost double the detractors McCarthy did and, where McCarthy was willing to suffer public humiliation and compromise in scores of directions for the gavel, Scalise seems to have opted to save face and move on. 

“I was very clear we have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs this country is counting on us,” Scalise said to reporters. “But there’s some folks that really need to look in the mirror over the next couple of days and decide are we going to get it back on track, or they’re going to try to pursue their own agenda.”

Opposition to Scalise fell broadly along two lines, those who questioned his policies and those who questioned his health. Scalise is currently battling multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. 

“While I had hoped to support the Republican Conference nominee for Speaker, it has become evident that all the agreements and Rules with the former Speaker are null and void,” Rep. Keith Self (R-Texas) tweeted. “In January, we held the line for a Rules package that restores power back to the people. We need a leader with the same resolve. Therefore, I will be casting my vote on the House Floor for Jim Jordan.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, speaking to CSPAN, said the Republican conference was a waste of time and that the selection of Scalise was a poor decision based on his health. 

“When you’re in a tight game you don’t put an injured player or a sick player on the field,” Greene said. 

In a tweet, one in which she was critical of “tactics” Republicans were using, Greene said, “I’m supporting Jim Jordan for Speaker. I’m not supporting Scalise. I like Steve Scalise, and as I said, I want him to beat cancer, and he should be focused on that.”

JORDAN TIME? 

So ended the brief effort of Steve Scalise to become Speaker of the House. 

It was a victory for the farther right elements of the Republican Party, though the win might prove pyrrhic in the long run. 

A Scalise exit clears the way for Jordan to make his push for the speakership, but the Ohioan and House Judiciary Committee chair could face odds similar to Scalise. 

As of this writing, Jordan can only count on 99 yes votes, with all Democrats guaranteed to vote against him and 122 Republicans technically on the fence. 

Jordan can spare four Republican votes and still earn the gavel, and he has the Freedom Caucus behind him. 

Indeed, outspoken Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz emphatically threw his support behind Jordan with a tweet that read, “It’s Jim Jordan Time!”

But, unlike McCarthy and Scalise before him, Jordan’s prospects do not hinge on the Freedom Caucus but on the votes of moderate Republicans, of which there are still numerous. 

With House elections over the not-too-distant horizon, purple- and blue-state Republicans will have to measure how a vote for Jordan, and by extension in favor of the wishes of Trump, will impact their reelection bids. 

As of Thursday evening, no major resistance has yet been lodged against Jordan by fellow Republicans. 

This could mean that Jordan has enough support, or at least a lack of sworn political adversaries, to surpass 217. 

Moderate Republicans market themselves on their ability to find common ground with the left. It’s possible they find enough common ground with their own party, especially in light of a general desire to settle the speaker question and focus on the numerous crises currently facing the nation and world. 

“We are living in a dangerous world,” Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said. “The world is on fire. Our adversaries are watching what we do, and quite frankly they like it. We need to fill the chair with a speaker. Every day that goes by, it gets more dangerous.”

McCaul added, “I see a lot of threats out there, but one of the biggest threats I see is in that room. Because we can’t unify as a conference and put a speaker in the chair to govern.”

Still, it will bear monitoring Republicans who represent at-risk regions in the likes of Michigan, California, New York, and other areas deemed more liberal to see if a quintet of detractors emerge. 

No less than former President Trump has predicted such a result is possible, even likely. 

“I think Steve will lose far more than four,” Trump said prior to Scalise’s announcement. “And I think probably Jim will too.”

IF NOT JORDAN, THEN WHO? 

In the event that Jordan falls short of 217, Republicans would face an even bigger problem. The next most popular figure, at least in terms of up-votes, would be McCarthy, who would likely fail to reach 217 votes, too. 

The question, then, would be who among the width and breadth of House Republicans would possess the gravitas to win the gavel? 

There is a small push for Gaetz to make a run at the speakership, a move that would if nothing else cause the legacy media and American entertainment industry to spin off their axes. 

Gaetz, an avid Jordan backer, will not make a serious push so long as is ally stands a chance, but a Jordan failure could change the dynamic. 

In response to digital strategist Eric Spracklen’s call for Gaetz to seek the speakership, Gaetz spoke at length without accepting or rejecting the notion. 

“We need more America First Congressmen,” Gaetz said during a livestream. “There are far too many people here who are vestiges of a Republican Party of yester-year that does not reflect the dynamism, energy, and realignment that a lot of our most enthusiastic activists and supporters reflect …In a lot of ways, the Republican conference is not here in Washington DC in the House of Representatives is not a leading indicator of where the Republican Party is, it’s a lagging indicator … The American people want to see Washington change.”

Gaetz would almost certainly fail to reach 217 votes. He has almost as many enemies on the right as on the left. 

Another name that might crop up is that of New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. 

Stefanik has made no mention of a desire to become the speaker and has spoken highly of both Jordan and Scalise, but she could be a viable candidate should Jordan falter. 

She has managed to appeal to a relatively more moderate base with her policy stances and voting record while still maintaining the support of the pro-Trump crowd through her strong support of the former president through his impeachments. 

More recently, she appeared poised to replace Scalise as House majority leader. However, Scalise is returning to that position, meaning Stefanik’s rise in rank has been paused.

Perhaps if a crisis comes to pass, Stefanik’s ascension could be accelerated as she might have the blend of moderate and farther-right credentials to overcome the 217 challenge. 

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