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Louisiana’s Steve Scalise and Ohio’s Jim Jordan jump into race for U.S. House speaker

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Louisiana’s Steve Scalise and Ohio’s Jim Jordan jump into race for U.S. House speaker

Oct 04, 2023 | 4:28 pm ET
By Ashley Murray Samantha Dietel
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Louisiana’s Steve Scalise and Ohio’s Jim Jordan jump into race for U.S. House speaker
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Louisiana’s Steve Scalise and Ohio’s Jim Jordan jump into race for U.S. House speaker

WASHINGTON — Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio announced Wednesday they will seek the U.S. House speaker’s gavel after Kevin McCarthy’s unprecedented ouster brought the lower chamber into uncharted territory.

Eight dissident Republicans joined Democrats to unseat McCarthy Tuesday, leaving a vacuum of GOP leadership and bringing an abrupt halt to chamber business, including negotiating long-term government spending.

Louisiana’s Steve Scalise and Ohio’s Jim Jordan jump into race for U.S. House speaker
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is a candidate to replace Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House, is surrounded by reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. (Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

McCarthy ally Patrick McHenry, of North Carolina, is currently filling the role as speaker pro tempore. McCarthy said Tuesday night that he would not try to regain the post.

Scalise and Jordan both issued letters to party colleagues making the case that they can unite the conference and shepherd conservative priorities, including border security and possibly resizing Ukraine funding, into policy.

“I know the coming weeks ahead will be some of the most arduous times we will face together, but this Conference is worth fighting for — we cannot lose sight of our shared mission,” Scalise, who represents Louisiana’s 1st District, wrote.

“Now, more than ever, we must mend the deep wounds that exist within our Conference and focus on our objectives so we can get back to work for the millions of people who are counting on us. It is with that sense of responsibility and purpose that I am seeking the Conference’s nomination for Speaker of the House.”

Scalise, who often wears a mask, announced in August that he had been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, after undergoing tests. He said he would continue to serve in the House while undergoing treatment. His diagnosis came six years after he survived a near-fatal shooting at an Alexandria, Virginia, park while practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game.

Louisiana’s Steve Scalise and Ohio’s Jim Jordan jump into race for U.S. House speaker
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who is a candidate to replace Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House, is surrounded by reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. (Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

The two Republicans met Wednesday morning and into the afternoon behind closed doors with the Texas delegation, one of the largest in the House, to discuss a path forward. They exited at separate times, and it was unclear if they were ever in the room simultaneously.

Jordan, who chairs the House Committee on the Judiciary and is helping lead the GOP impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, appealed to members of the majority, writing that they “must continue to address the issues that matter to the American people,” including crime and tackling the deficit.

“The problems we face are challenging, but they are not insurmountable. We can focus on the changes that improve the country and unite us in offering real solutions. But no matter what we do, we must do it together as a conference. I respectfully ask for your support for Speaker of the House of Representatives,” Jordan, who represents the state’s 4th District, wrote.

Among those who threw their support behind Jordan on Wednesday were Reps. Mark Green of Tennessee, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Mike Carey of Ohio, Jim Banks of Indiana, Darrell Issa of California and Mary Miller of Illinois.

Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota declared his support for Scalise Wednesday and also announced a run for majority leader.

The far-right’s leverage

Republicans hold a slim majority in the House, which allowed just a handful of far-right conservatives to create conditions for easily removing the speaker.

McCarthy’s rocky path to the speakership in January took multiple rounds of voting as more than a dozen far-right conservatives blocked him during a four-day stalemate.

The California Republican won on the 15th ballot after making several concessions to the ultra-conservative wing of his party, including  changing rules to allow one member to file a motion to vacate the speakership — essentially calling for a no-confidence vote on the speaker.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida was the one to do so Tuesday, carving the beginnings of an unknown path in the House and interrupting any progress House Republicans were hoping to make on appropriations with just over 40 days until temporary funding expires.

Gaetz excoriated McCarthy for striking a deal with Democrats Saturday to keep the government funded until Nov. 17.

In the hallway outside of the Texas delegation meeting, Jordan told reporters that if elected speaker he would work against including Ukraine military and humanitarian assistance in long-term funding.

“I’m against that. What I understand is, at some point we’re going to have to deal with this appropriation process in the right way. We’re going to try to do that in the next 41 days. The most pressing issue on Americans’ minds is not Ukraine. It is the border situation and it’s crime on the streets, and everybody knows that. So let’s address those,” he said.

Upon exiting the Texas delegation, Scalise told the press that he believes the rest of the conference has “strong passions” about securing the border and fighting for struggling families.

“I’ve been just listening to a lot of members, and I had a lot of really good conversations about how we keep focusing on the things we need to do to get our country back on track. And I think most of our members are in that same place,” he said.

Speculation and a Senate rebuke

Speculation swirled in the Capitol hallways Wednesday that Oklahoma’s Kevin Hern or Florida’s Byron Donalds may be eyeing the gavel. Neither officially declared a run as of Wednesday afternoon.

“You’ll be the first to know,” Hern told reporters Wednesday outside of the Texas delegation meeting.

At least one House aide told States Newsroom that their office received a call from Hern asking for support.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky praised McCarthy at the Senate GOP weekly press conference.

“I think he has much to be proud of. We avoided a government shutdown. We did the inevitable with regard to the debt ceiling, and I’m one person who is extremely grateful for his service,” McConnell said.

“I have no advice to give House Republicans except one: I hope whoever the next speaker gets rid of the motion to vacate. I think it makes the speaker’s job impossible,” he said.