It took just one round of votes during the Republican conference meeting Wednesday for House Majority Leader Steve Scalise to become their nominee for speaker, but it was hardly a resounding victory. He got 113 votes to Rep. Jim Jordan’s 99. That means, assuming all 221 Republicans were present, nine of them either voted for someone else or abstained from voting.
There was some talk about Scalise using his momentum to push through to a floor vote Wednesday afternoon. “I believe we’ll have a Speaker Scalise in office by dinnertime tonight,” said one Scalise backer, Rep. Lance Gooden of Texas. “I’m confident we’ll all be on the same page when we get to the floor.”
Clearly, that momentum was vastly overstated. As of Wednesday afternoon, it’s not clear when they’ll be ready to take this to the floor, because Scalise has an awful lot of holdouts to lobby and convince.
Right off of the bat, Reps. Max Miller of Ohio and Lauren Boebert of Colorado announced that they will still vote for Jordan. Soon after, Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Michael Cloud of Texas piled on. Then the Freedom Caucus met, and Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama decided he couldn’t vote for Scalise—who he called a “rubber stamp for McCarthy”—and would also vote for Jordan on the floor. Then there’s this guy:
That’s five pretty determined “no” votes right out of the gate, which is the margin that denies a majority in the closely divided House, as ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy learned. There are already enough members who say they are voting for someone else to put Scalise’s ascension to the post in question. But he might have to win over a dozen or more Republicans to ultimately land the job.
It’s been a whole nine months since we last did this speaker thing, so let’s recap how it works. The speaker is elected when he (in this case) gets a majority of the votes from members present and voting. Assuming that all of the current 433 members show up and vote whenever this happens, Scalise would need 217 “yea” votes. You can also assume that all 212 Democrats will vote for their leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
So it all depends on what Scalise can promise or negotiate. One would assume that he’s sharper than McCarthy and knows not to promise conflicting things to vying groups or individuals, but he’s still got a tricky path. But hey, he’s got Rep. Matt Gaetz in his corner, so that’s something.