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Steve Scalise withdraws from House speaker race: 'We have to come together for the country'

House Republican Conference nominates Rep. Jim Jordan as nominee for speaker

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., speaks at a press conference introducing the Free Speech Fairness Act in the United States Capitol on Feb. 1, 2017.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., speaks at a press conference introducing the Free Speech Fairness Act in the United States Capitol on Feb. 1, 2017. | The Christian Post / Samuel Smith

Update at 5:05 p.m. ET Oct. 13: The House Republican Conference nominated Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, as their nominee for speaker in a 124-81 vote at a closed-door meeting Friday. 

Original report:

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., has taken himself out of the running to be the next speaker of the House of Representatives as Republicans struggle to find a consensus candidate to unite the multiple factions within their narrow majority. 

More than a week after the Republican-controlled House narrowly voted to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as speaker, Scalise emerged as a favored choice to replace him among the majority of the House Republican Conference.

"I'm withdrawing my name as a candidate for Speaker designee," the 58-year-old told reporters Thursday, one day after Republicans nominated him.

"If you look at, over the last few weeks, if you look at where our conference is, there's still work to be done," he explained. "Our conference still has to come together and is not there."

Scalise contends, "There are still some people that have their own agendas," stressing that "this House of Representatives needs a speaker, and we need to open up the House again." He lamented that "clearly, not everybody is there and there's still schisms that have to get resolved." 

"I never came here for a title," he added.

Scalise reflected on how his injury in the 2017 congressional baseball practice shooting "taught me what's important in life, and that's my family, my faith, and I am blessed beyond belief."

"I still have a deep, deep passion for making sure we get our country back on track and get our conference fixed again. There are 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, are they going to try to pursue their own agenda? You can't do both."

Scalise expressed confidence that "we're going to get there," insisting that "we have to come together for the country."

"We still need to get a speaker, and I'm going to continue to push as hard as we can to make that happen," he said. "It needs to happen soon." 

A spreadsheet compiled by Nathaniel Rakich and Tia Yang of the political website FiveThirtyEight suggests that Scalise likely lacked the votes necessary to secure the top job in the House.

With a slim 221-212 majority, any Republican speaker candidate cannot afford to lose more than four votes and still attain the 217-vote majority required to become speaker. 

The spreadsheet identified a total of 21 "anti-Scalise votes on floor," including 15 House Republicans who vowed to support Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the other candidate who came forward to seek the speakership following McCarthy's ouster.

The Scalise opponents supporting Jordan included two of the eight members who voted to remove McCarthy: Reps. Bob Good, R-Va., and Eli Crane, R-Ariz. 

The spreadsheet listed Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., as remaining supportive of McCarthy while placing five additional members under a column titled "Scalise opponents, unclear whom they'll support." 

If every Republican not featured on the spreadsheet supported Scalise and every member listed opposed him, he would have ended up with 200 votes, leaving him well short of the votes required to obtain the speakership. With Scalise out of the running, the focus has turned to Jordan.

Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., told reporters ahead of a Friday House GOP Conference meeting where lawmakers were slated to set the rules on electing the next speaker and possibly nominate a candidate that the conference was "very close" to electing Jordan. The spreadsheet also contains a list of "anti-Jordan votes on floor," indicating that a small but not insignificant number of Republicans would likely vote against making him speaker.

The spreadsheet classified Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Ken Buck, R-Colo., Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Austin Scott, R-Ga., Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Ann Wagner, R-Mo., as "generic anti-Jordan votes" while noting that Gimenez and Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., remain supportive of McCarthy. Jordan cannot afford to lose the support of any more than four House Republicans and still obtain majority support in the House.

An effort to reinstate McCarthy as speaker is also unfolding on Capitol Hill. McClintock wrote a letter to his colleagues Thursday urging them to support a conference resolution that would "condemn the House vote that removed him, and to re-nominate him for that office and then keep voting until enough of our wayward colleagues return to the fold." He noted that "the conference rules require 25 percent of the conference to sign a resolution for expedited consideration." 

The 217-vote threshold to elect a speaker will remain in effect as long as every member of the House votes for a specific individual to serve in the position. If any members vote "present," that will lower the number of votes required to become Speaker.

With all 212 Democrats expected to unite behind House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Jordan will need at least 213 votes, assuming enough detractors either support their nominee or vote "present" as opposed to voting for someone else. 

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., is acting as speaker pro tempore with limited powers. No votes have taken place on the House floor since McCarthy's removal. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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