Republican Steve Scalise is seen as a fighter, but becoming House Speaker might require a brawl
Steve Scalise. Image via AP.

We narrowly won the nomination in a GOP conference committee. But does he have the votes needed on the floor?

With his walker positioned on the mound, Rep. Steve Scalise threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Washington Nationals ballpark, a breathtaking comeback for the Republican Congressman who just months earlier was fighting for his life after a gunman had opened fire on lawmakers at their own charity baseball game practice.

An “American hero,” is how Republican colleagues describe Scalise after the 2017 shooting and on Wednesday, a narrow majority of them nominated him as their next House Speaker following the unprecedented ouster of the former Speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Scalise, 58, and recently diagnosed with blood cancer, spent the rest of the day holed up in the stately Speaker’s office at the Capitol, vigorously working to secure the support he will need from his detractors to lead the divided Republican majority ahead of a full House vote to take the gavel.

“As we’ve all witnessed, he is a fighter,” said Rep. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican. “He has proven against all odds he can get the job done and come back from adversity.”

An affable Louisianan, Scalise was first elected to Congress in 2008, after more than a decade in the state legislature, and swiftly rose through the ranks in Washington.

Early on he positioned himself as a conservative, part of a new generation of younger Republicans who came of political age during the Ronald Reagan era, many intent on changing Washington.

Once Republicans took majority control in the 2010 election “tea party” wave of hardline lawmakers to Congress, Scalise soon became part of the House leadership team alongside McCarthy and others under then-Speaker John Boehner.

An early rivalry developed between Scalise and McCarthy that punctuated their rise, and continues to this day as the Louisianan is about to take the gavel after the Californian was pushed out.

Scalise has long drawn his support from the Southern states, and he fell outside of the triumvirate of McCarthy, Rep. Eric Cantor and eventual Speaker Paul Ryan, who called themselves the “Young Guns” and penned a book about their vision for the Republican Party in Congress.

When a right-wing challenger toppled Cantor in a GOP primary election for his congressional seat in Virginia in summer of 2014, it also set off a domino effect in the House leadership ladder.

McCarthy rose to become Majority Leader, and Scalise the Majority Whip.

One early morning three years later, Scalise and other Republican lawmakers gathered at a grassy park in the suburbs outside of Washington to practice for the upcoming congressional baseball game.

A rifleman with grievances over then-President Donald Trump started shooting, gravely wounding Scalise, and hitting several people and U.S. Capitol Police, who also fired back. Lawmakers dove for cover.

During an interview later on C-SPAN, Scalise described asking the medic as he was being airlifted to the hospital to call his wife back home in Louisiana

“I just felt like things were fading away,” Scalise recalled.

No one picked up the phone but his wife saved the voice mail message he left her that day, and listening back to it, he said, is tough.

But Scalise said: “It’s hard to focus on the negative when I know how close I was to not making it, and to know that I’m here alive and I get to do all the things I love doing,”

When Scalise returned to the House three months later he was cheered with a standing ovation.

“You have no idea how great this feels to be back here at work in the people’s House,” he said at the time to a chamber packed with lawmakers.

Scalise went on to champion Second Amendment rights, despite a series of mass shootings in the U.S.

If the Capitol Police officers on his security detail had not been there with guns to counter the shooter, “then there would have been nobody to take him down,” Scalise said around the first anniversary of the shooting.

He said the shooting “deepened my appreciation for the Second Amendment because it was people with guns who saved my life and every other member out there.”

A father of two, Scalise recently returned to work after receiving treatment for blood cancer, raising questions from colleagues about his health and ability to lead.

The Speaker’s job can be brutal and thankless, with busy travel across the country raising campaign cash and recruiting candidates for elections.

Behind closed doors Wednesday, Scalise’s wife, Jennifer, joined the private meeting, sending a message that her husband’s blood cancer would not slow him down.

“If there was any outside chance that this was going to be detrimental to his health, or counterproductive to his well being, she would have put her foot down,” Womack said. “She’s all in.”

But that wasn’t enough for some holdouts who supported rival Rep. Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee who had Trump’s backing to become Speaker, and are now denying Scalise the votes for the gavel.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, said she would continue supporting Jordan because she wants to see Scalise “defeat cancer more than sacrifice his health” in a demanding job.

Others dredged up his past. Scalise had apologized in 2014 after he was found to have addressed a white supremacist group in 2002 founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Scalise said he didn’t know of the group’s racial views.

It’s not the first time a leader has risen on the heels of another’s downfall.

When Boehner abruptly retired rather than face the threat of ouster, McCarthy reached for the gavel only to step aside for Ryan when it was clear he did not have support.

After Ryan decided to retire in 2018 as it became more difficult to lead during the Trump era, the political rivalry between Scalise and McCarthy sparked again.

Scalise did not openly challenge McCarthy at the time as Republicans fell into the minority, but positioned himself as a fallback in case the votes weren’t there.

When McCarthy seized the gavel in January once Republicans regained the majority, Scalise won the No. 2 job as Majority Leader.

Late Wednesday, the Speaker’s office became a revolving door as holdout Republican lawmakers met with Scalise bringing their concerns, complaints and demands.

The Republicans want to prevent the spectacle of repeated House floor votes to elect the Speaker. Republicans hold just a slim 221-212 majority, and almost all of them will need to support Scalise over the objections of Democrats.

“We’re having continued conversations,” said Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican and a member of the Freedom Caucus.

“As I said earlier, I was not happy with the way things unfolded,” said Roy. “I thought we should figure this out behind closed doors, as a conference before we started moving towards the floor.”


Republished with permission of The Associated Press

Associated Press


  • Sonja Fitch

    October 12, 2023 at 7:40 am

    What complete crap that Marjorie Taylor Green is spewing out! Shut up MTG! She ain’t notin but a damn MAGA slug! Between Gaetz and Green the absolute worst is being projected by these MAGA losers! Step up good Republicans! The press is just as culpable! Stop giving MAGA slugs an opportunity to spread their perversion and hate! M

    • My Take

      October 12, 2023 at 8:22 am

      Step up good Republicans
      Where would you find any? Àñ extinct breed.

  • Ocean Joe

    October 12, 2023 at 8:43 am

    Dems should throw him 10 votes or so to end the paralysis. He is mainstream by today’s GOP standards. Jordan is entertaining but a bomb thrower and Trump lapdog. Then again, they all are.

    • Michael K

      October 12, 2023 at 10:25 am

      The Republican party is run by a handful of radical right-wing extremists who represent less than 2% of the American populaiton. They’ve demonstrated their inability to govern their own party, let alone lead America. They need to work this civil war out on their own – and stop the performative stunts and dysfunction, and get serious about governance. They barely have a majority, with no shared values, platform or leadership. This is what the Putin-loving MAGAs are doing to America – destroying it from within.

  • Earl Pitts "The Earl Of International Security" American

    October 12, 2023 at 8:47 am

    Good mornting Matt,
    However this poor timing side-show works itself out the take-away for RINO’s at least in the house is that as long as Matt’s in Washington you just might get your RINO @55 kicked.
    Prior to Matt everyone in The House had somehow mis-placed their testicals.
    Thanks Matt,

  • MG

    October 12, 2023 at 9:58 am

    Appriciate you Earl,
    We’ve initiated a fool-proof method to avoid this problem from happening again. I’ve formed a special committee which will meet in one of our secure “skiffs” to avoid vidieo or pic’s getting out. We allow both men and women to serve on the committee to avoid any workplace discrimimation charges.
    We will be conducting nut checks on all current male House Members to determine basically if their sacks contain the required item(s) for service in the house.
    In addition all future House Speakers will be required to have those big bull of the woods full sacks like yours Earl.
    Earl when your in town could you please stop by and let our committee see for themselves the awesome size of your pods as an example to our committee as to what we are looking for in a future speaker going forward. You would be doing a great service to our nation by showing us your stuff Earl.
    We are developing our female criteria so that should we ever need to consider a female Speaker, at some point in the future, we will have a basic template of what to look for as we are aware the nut check procedure will need to be amended for that scenario.
    Thanks again Earl

    • Earl Pitts American

      October 12, 2023 at 10:26 am

      That will be great Matt,
      I’ll be in town and avalable Wednesday at 3:00 pm.
      Could you please send the female committee members by my hotel room at 10:00 am for a private meeting so I can give them some hands on instruction of what they are looking for?
      I just dont want them to be shy to ask any questions they may have in front of their male co-workers.
      Thanks Earl

  • PeterH

    October 12, 2023 at 12:21 pm

    So the media will hold out telling the American public that Scalise is a Klan member until after he wins Republican support for the Speakership! How embarrassing!

Comments are closed.


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