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Rep. Steve Scalise wins the House GOP speaker nomination

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., talks to reporters as he leaves Republicans closed-door forum to hear from the candidates for speaker of the House on Tuesday.
Jose Luis Magana
/
AP
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., talks to reporters as he leaves Republicans closed-door forum to hear from the candidates for speaker of the House on Tuesday.

Updated October 11, 2023 at 6:39 PM ET

Republicans have chosen Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., to be their nominee for House speaker in a closed-door, secret-ballot election.

Scalise defeated House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, by a vote of 113-99. That gave Scalise a narrow majority of the Republicans' 221 votes in the chamber, but he has yet to lock up the 217 votes necessary to win on the House floor. A source with direct knowledge of the matter said Jordan plans to vote for Scalise on the House floor and is encouraging his colleagues to do the same.

But it's not clear when Republicans will take the nomination to the floor or whether the conference will unify around Scalise. After the vote Wednesday morning, Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, said the race was "not over."

"I'm still throwing my support behind Jim Jordan for House speaker," Miller told reporters. "I am not going to change my vote now or anytime soon on the House floor."

New speaker, same math

With a razor-thin majority, a small number of defectors could hold up Scalise's nomination, as they did with Rep. Kevin McCarthy's nomination in January. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said she would not vote for Scalise, citing his current fight with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

"I like Steve Scalise, and I like him so much that I want to see him defeat cancer more than sacrifice his health in the most difficult position in Congress," Greene wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., also wrote on social media that Scalise has not secured his vote "because he has not articulated a viable plan for avoiding an omnibus" spending bill. Current government funding expires on Nov. 17, so averting a shutdown and passing long-term funding bills will be a pressing matter for whoever is elected House speaker.

Rep. Keith Self, R-Texas, said he voted for Jordan in the closed conference meeting but will support Scalise on the floor.

"We need to get back to work," he told reporters. "We took the vote, and Steve Scalise is our nominee. ... It was close, but that's the way elections go."

Republicans seem determined to avoid a protracted public fight, like the 15 rounds of voting it took McCarthy to secure the gavel in January. Scalise met with several holdouts Wednesday evening.

"The message was, let's make sure we're united before we go to the floor," Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., said after the conference vote. "And now we have work to do to make sure that the people that didn't vote for Steve Scalise do so on the floor."

Who is Steve Scalise?

Scalise, 58, was elected in 2008 in a special election to replace Bobby Jindal, who had just been elected governor of Louisiana.

The former systems engineer got his start in politics at Louisiana State University, where he was twice elected speaker of LSU's student government association. He served as a member of the Louisiana State Legislature for 12 years before being elected to the U.S. House.

The turning point in his career was a 2012 win that made him chairman of the influential Republican Study Group.

As House majority whip in 2017, Scalise was shot by a gunman in Alexandria, Va., as he was playing second base, his normal position on the congressional baseball team. The incident led to a long road to recovery: Scalise underwent multiple surgeries and blood transfusions after the bullet that struck his left hip traveled across his pelvis, fracturing bones, injuring internal organs and causing severe bleeding.

In August of this year, Scalise said he'd been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a "very treatable blood cancer" for which he has begun treatment. "I have now begun treatment, which will continue for the next several months," he said on X.

If the House majority leader's position becomes vacant, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the majority whip, and Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma are in the running for that position.

— Claudia Grisales contributed to this story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.