Steve Scalise nominated as House speaker candidate by GOP lawmakers

U.S. House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) listens during a press conference following a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., July 18, 2023.

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Republican lawmakers Wednesday selected Rep. Steve Scalise as their candidate for speaker of the House of Representatives, more than a week after Kevin McCarthy was ousted by rebel GOP members in a historic no-confidence vote.

Scalise, the Republican majority leader from Louisiana, defeated Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio in a 113-to-99 vote during a closed-door meeting of GOP House members.

Scalise will next face a full vote in the House, where he will need the support of 217 lawmakers to secure the speakership. 

The House will not vote on the speaker issue Wednesday, more than a half dozen GOP members and staff from both parties told NBC News. The governing body met briefly at 3 p.m. ET and then went into recess.

Scalise doesn’t yet appear to have the votes to become speaker given the narrow margin in the closely divided House. He can only afford to lose four Republicans. At least eight GOP House members remain opposed to Scalise’s candidacy at this time, according to an NBC News tally.

Jordan plans to vote for Scalise on the floor and is encouraging his colleagues to do the same, a source with direct knowledge of the matter told CNBC.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told reporters Wednesday that he does not want to rush a House vote on Scalise until Republicans are united. McCarthy faced a grueling 15 ballots before he was elected speaker in January as he faced opposition from hard-right members of the party.

Scalise told reporters Wednesday morning that his first item of business as speaker would be to pass a bipartisan resolution expressing U.S. solidarity with Israel in the wake of devastating terrorist attacks by Hamas that have killed at least 1,200 people.

“We got to get back to work today,” Scalise told reporters.

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The House remains leaderless more than a week after Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida and seven other Republicans engineered the ousting of McCarthy, who ran afoul of hard-right members of the GOP for working with Democrats to pass spending legislation last month to avoid a government shutdown.

The House is effectively in a state of paralysis until someone is elected to take the speaker’s gavel.

The race to find a new speaker has become urgent as Israel seeks U.S. security assistance for its war on Hamas. President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he will ask Congress to take “urgent action” to fund the national security needs of U.S. partners as the Middle East descends into war and Ukraine wages its grinding counteroffensive to push Russia out of its eastern territories.

Congress also needs to pass spending legislation by Nov. 17 to avoid a government shutdown.

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