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Jim Jordan to vote for Steve Scalise to be House speaker

After winning the nomination for Speaker of the House, Steve Scalise faced a typical Republican problem – a lack of support from sceptical House colleagues. Lack of a majority vote does not qualify him to receive the gavel.

The House of Representatives will open at midday on Thursday on the eve of the speaker’s vote. To do so, however, Scalise will have to get more than 100 votes, taking them mostly from his chief rival Jim Jordan. Jordan is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, favoured by hardliners preparing to fight to replace Rep. Kevin McCarthy after his historic suspension. Scalise said after Wednesday’s internal party election:

“We have a lot of work to do.”

Scalise’s office took complaints, criticisms and demands from Republicans until late into the evening. Earlier this year, McCarthy faced a similar response from another group of far-right supporters who ended up casting their votes and then orchestrated his historic downfall.

In the second week without a Speaker, with the House essentially unable to perform its functions, Republicans are forced to change course, regain majority control and govern. The House was adjourned on Wednesday, and the expected vote was cut off by evening. McCarthy, who said he would be voting for Scalise, said:

“Steve’s going to have to talk to them all and see what their concerns are.”

What is unclear whether Scalise will receive the endorsement of Jordan, a hardliner backed by Donald Trump, in a close vote from lawmakers. Democrats intend to nominate New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries as their candidate, thus opposing the Republican nominee. After the 113-99 intraparty vote, Jordan said the GOP majority was “divided”. However, Jordan suggested that Scalise gave his nomination speech on the floor, which would signify his support during the vote. Jordan plans to cast his vote for Scalise and urges his colleagues to do the same, said a person familiar with the private negotiations on the condition of anonymity. A centrist leader, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said:

“We do need to get a speaker in place so we can govern. What we should have heard today after the vote count was: ‘I will heartily support Steve. Let’s get behind him.’We did not hear that.”

Scalise will need to get the votes of nearly all Republicans on the House floor to overcome Democratic resistance in a House narrowly divided 221-212. Normally that would require a 218-vote majority, but there are currently two vacant seats, lowering the threshold to 217. Many Republicans do not want to allow a messy fight in the House like the one in January when McCarthy became speaker.

Behind closed doors, a majority of Republicans were in favour of cancelling a proposed rule change that would have required a majority vote before a nominee could be put on the ballot. Without the rule change, Republican lawmakers were expected to agree to the majority vote procedure. However, several lawmakers said they did not support Scalise.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Hawaii, said she voted for Jordan on a close vote and would vote on a floor vote. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. said he made it clear to Scalise that “he doesn’t have my vote on the floor.” But Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla. said after meeting with Scalise that he had guaranteed her “aggressive” work on the committee investigating President Joe Biden and secured her vote.

Americans are watching. 25% of Republicans support the decision by a small group of Republicans to remove McCarthy as speaker. Three in 10 Republicans think it was a mistake, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Centre for Public Affairs Research. At the White House, presidential spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said:

“We want to see the chaos be done with so that we can deliver for the American people.”

Neither Scalise nor Jordan were seen as the heir apparent to McCarthy, who was removed from office as a result of pressure from the far-right wing after the speaker led Congress to pass legislation averting a government shutdown. The next deadline to fund the government is 17 November, again threatening to shut down federal agencies. All three men have been here before. In 2018, they fought for leadership in the same way, with McCarthy and Scalise continuing their rivalry to this day.

This time, Scalise faced a challenge from Jordan, one of the founders of the Freedom Caucus, who was seen as a tougher option. Jordan is known for his close alliance with Trump, especially when the then-president sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election, leading to an attack on the Capitol on 6 January 2021.

Scalise is a prominent figure in the House GOP conference and has long been seen as either a potential successor, or rival, to McCarthy. Before he became majority leader, Scalise served as House GOP whip, a role focused on vote counting and ensuring support for key party priorities. The majority leader, his current role, oversees the House floor and schedules legislation for votes.

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