“If the doctors didn’t sign off, I wouldn’t be doing this,” Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority leader currently vying for a promotion to Speaker of the House, told Fox News last week.
While the doctors may have signed off, some of Scalise’s colleagues in the House GOP have not.
“I like Steve Scalise, and I like him so much that I want to see him defeat cancer more than sacrifice his health in the most difficult position in Congress,” tweeted Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. “We need a Speaker who is able to put their full efforts into defeating the communist democrats and save America.”
Former President Donald Trump, who previously endorsed Jordan, told Fox News Thursday that “Steve is a man that is in serious trouble, from the standpoint of his cancer. I mean, he’s got to get better. For himself. I’m not talking about even country now.”
At a House Republican conference meeting on Wednesday, Scalise bested Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio in a vote for the Speaker’s nomination 113-99. But 113 is a far cry from the 217 votes Scalise will need to secure the Speakership on the House floor. To make matters worse for Scalise, following his apparent victory Wednesday, several members of the House GOP declared they would not be voting for Scalise on the floor—at least as things currently stand.
“I will be voting for Jim Jordan to be Speaker of the House on the floor when the vote is called,” tweeted Rep. Lauren Boebert, who recently talked to The American Conservative about her endorsement of Jordan for Speaker and the qualities he would bring to the role. “The American people deserve a real change in leadership, not a continuation of the status quo,” the tweet concluded. Jordan, on the other hand, has since offered Scalise his support including making a speech in favor of his nomination.
Virginia’s Rep. Bob Good, another representative who recently spoke to TAC about the grapple for the gavel, also tweeted that he’d support Jordan on the House floor because “the country cannot afford the status quo.”
Greene isn’t alone in her concerns over Scalise’s health. “It is a concern for a lot of members,” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas recently told Glenn Beck in an interview. “It is part of the reason why I think he’s having trouble getting to 217.”
Roy isn’t making it any easier for Scalise, given he’d be among the Republicans who would not vote for Scalise for Speaker if the vote went to the floor. “For me, the next man up mentality, the ‘hey, let’s just do another person who has been in Washington for 20 years,’ the majority leader and boom, you’re the speaker, as opposed to somebody who’s not really of the swamp,” Roy explained to Beck. “We need a trajectory change.”
Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Jordan supporter who recently spoke to TAC about Jordan’s plan to avoid a holiday omnibus, also announced he’d withhold his support from Scalise because the Louisiana Congressman “has not articulated a viable plan for avoiding an omnibus.” Other members, including Reps. Max Miller of Ohio, Victoria Spartz of Indiana, Barry Moore of Alabama, and Florida’s Rep. Carlos Gimenez (who said he’d vote for McCarthy on the floor), are currently withholding their votes from Scalise.
“The primary quality” that Rep. Eli Crane is looking for in the next Speaker “is integrity.”
“We need someone who gives their word and sticks to it. Conservatives struck a deal with McCarthy that he would complete the twelve appropriations bills at a certain level, and he ultimately didn’t stick to that deal. The American people are tired of it. Do what you say you’re going to do. Second, we need someone who understands that this country is in dire straits. We need a leader who is going to be willing to take a stand and crush the status quo. We don’t have a conservative conference–I’m not blind to that fact, but we need a fresh start.”
Who currently meets those qualifications, Crane wouldn’t say. “In all honesty, if I publicly endorsed my pick then it might sink that individual’s chance of becoming speaker,” Crane told TAC via email. “So I will keep my powder dry until we start voting.”
The House GOP conference met again Thursday, where Scalise tried to assuage some hesitant members about their concerns. On his way into the meeting, Scalise told Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News that, “Members still want to talk through a number of things about the direction of the conference. We’re going to do that.”
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As for striking a deal with conservatives to shore up his support, Scalise told Sherman, “No side deals…let’s have this in full view of everybody. No side deals. No secret meetings.” Scalise was unconvincing in the Thursday meeting, according to sources familiar with the matter. What happened after the meeting seems to give credence to this claim—Rep. Anna Paulina Luna flipped from yes to no on Speaker Scalise. Six hard no’s against Scalise were among those who gave remarks at the Thursday meeting.
Where the House GOP goes from here, much less how Scalise gets to 217, remains to be seen. And Republican leadership isn’t particularly keen on giving such a vision. One unnamed Republican told John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News that Scalise, “Just rambled and didn’t directly answer questions. No plan. Didn’t unify or inspire the conference.”