The Republican nominee for the position of Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, announced his withdrawal on Thursday. This decision came after he struggled to secure the necessary support to win a full chamber vote, further exacerbating the ongoing crisis in the lower chamber of Congress.
Scalise had narrowly won a secret internal Republican ballot on Wednesday, initially positioning himself to replace Kevin McCarthy, who had been removed from the position. However, it became evident that he could not muster the 217 votes required in a full House vote, as members of his own party publicly declared their opposition.
“It’s been quite a journey, and there’s still a long way to go. I just shared with my colleagues that I’m withdrawing my name as a candidate for the speaker designee,” Scalise stated, marking the end of the Republican Party’s hopes for a moment of unity.
This leadership vacuum, stemming from McCarthy’s unprecedented removal, has paralyzed Congress for nine days, preventing the passage of bills and approval of White House requests for emergency aid. Compounding the issue, the looming government shutdown deadline is just a month away, with no progress made during the leadership crisis.
Efforts by Scalise to garner more support from fellow Republicans during a midday meeting only seemed to increase skepticism, with Congresswoman Anna Paulina Luna, a former Scalise endorser, expressing doubt that they would even reach the voting floor.
Numerous Republicans had publicly announced their refusal to back Scalise, and it was suggested that as many as 30 lawmakers from his own party were in opposition. This lack of consensus within the Republican Party further complicated the situation.
While Scalise expressed the need for unity, it was clear that internal divisions and unresolved schisms were hindering the process. Detractors had criticized his role in derailing proposed reforms and raised concerns about his ability to unify the party. Additionally, questions arose about his capacity to fulfill the role due to his treatment for blood cancer.
The Republicans had not unveiled a clear plan to address this crisis, leaving them with the possibility of turning to hardliner Jim Jordan or potentially empowering the current acting Speaker temporarily. On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called for a “bipartisan governing coalition,” but Republicans showed no inclination to consider such a move.