In a surprising turn, Representative Steve Scalise, previously tapped by the Republicans as the anticipated next US House Speaker, withdrew his candidacy on Thursday amidst ongoing party discord, extending the House’s leaderless state into its tenth day.
Scalise, the Majority Leader, had received the nomination of his party to succeed the deposed Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, but fell short of acquiring the 217 votes necessary for election on the House floor. This shortfall was attributed to resistance from a faction within his own party.
With a slender control of the House at 221-212, Republicans could only afford a maximum of four defections to cease the continuing absence of leadership, which has now persisted for over a week.
“I am withdrawing my name as a candidate for our speaker designee,” Scalise openly shared with reporters, acknowledging the party’s ongoing internal struggles and disparate agendas.
This period of GOP disunity has rendered the chamber inert, disabling its capacity to enact support for Israel in its conflict against Hamas’ Palestinian militants and to pass governmental spending bills before the funding deadline on November 17th.
An agreement on a new nominee remained elusive after a Republican meeting on Thursday night, with another meeting scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. ET.
The GOP had aimed to avoid mirroring the awkward spectacle from January, when McCarthy faced grueling 15-floor votes over four days before finally securing the gavel, courtesy of pressure from staunch conservatives.
Some Republicans, including Representative Greg Murphy, suggested that a compromise candidate might ultimately be the solution, considering the hefty support required to secure a win on the floor.
After McCarthy’s removal, Representative Patrick McHenry, appointed as a temporary speaker, has emerged as a potential backup candidate should other nominees fail to garner sufficient votes. Some party members have proposed fortifying McHenry’s interim powers to circumvent the stagnation ensuing from the absence of a permanent speaker.
While Scalise, recognized within the GOP for his resilient comeback after surviving a gunshot wound in 2017, exits the race, the party is left grappling with its leadership crisis and the resultant legislative paralysis.