House Republicans on Wednesday nominated Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) to be the next Speaker, sending his candidacy to the House floor following Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) stunning ouster last week, multiple lawmakers told The Hill.
Scalise secured the nomination 113-99 in a closed-door GOP conference meeting, defeating House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in a close race that did not have a clear front-runner heading into the internal vote.
Scalise will now take his candidacy to the House floor, where he will be up against House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who Democrats nominated for Speaker on Tuesday night.
The floor fight could get messy. Candidates need the support of a majority of the chamber to take control of the gavel and Republicans hold a razor-thin majority. McCarthy required 15 rounds of voting to secure the gavel.
At least six Republicans have already said they’ll vote for someone other than Scalise on the floor, and and handful of others remain undecided or declined to comment.
Jordan, however, said he offered to deliver a nominating speech on Scalise’s behalf.
Scalise’s nomination marks the pinnacle of his congressional career, which began in 2008 and has spanned more than nine years in leadership, including stints as Republican whip and, most recently, majority leader.
Throughout the week-long race for the top spot, Scalise branded himself as the Republican who could unite the conference following McCarthy’s ouster, which bitterly divided the GOP and inflamed tensions within the party.
“I’ve got a long history of bringing people together, uniting Republicans, focusing on the issues that we’ve got to do to address the issues we came here to do to get our country back on track,” Scalise told Fox Business in an interview Tuesday.
Republican Reps. Frank Lucas (Okla.), Ashley Hinson (Iowa) and John James (Mich.) officially nominated Scalise for Speaker in the closed-door meeting, according to a source familiar.
Scalise clinched the nomination despite some members voicing concerns about his health. The Louisiana Republican was diagnosed in August with multiple myeloma, which he described as a “very treatable” blood cancer. He has been undergoing treatment, and late last month Scalise said “the cancer has dropped dramatically” following chemotherapy.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) on Monday, nonetheless, called Scalise’s health “an issue.”
“I was honest with Scalise. I think his health is an issue. I don’t want somebody that is gonna deteriorate in the job,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told reporters Monday. “This is a tough job. You’ve got to be everywhere.”
Scalise’s supporters, however, have brushed aside concerns over his health, arguing that he is able to perform the job. Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), who endorsed Scalise heading into the internal election, pointed to a sign off from the Louisiana Republican’s wife, Jennifer, as evidence that he is up for the job.
“Jennifer is the one that has said, ‘I wouldn’t allow him to do this if he wasn’t healthy enough to do this,’” Gonzales said. “When his wife says, ‘We’re in this to win this’ — that’s all I needed to know.”
Scalise’s cancer is not his first major health battle. He was critically injured in the 2017 Congressional baseball shooting, taking him out of congressional work for months.
Scalise won the nomination for Speaker after the House booted McCarthy from the Speakership last week, marking the first time since 1910 that the chamber held a vote on toppling its top lawmaker and the first-ever successful attempt.
A group of eight Republicans, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), joined with Democrats in voting to oust McCarthy from his post. The GOP lawmakers were in-part frustrated with McCarthy’s handling of the government funding process, with the last straw being the California Republican’s decision to put a “clean” continuing resolution on the floor to avert a government shutdown. The stopgap passed with the help of Democrats, infuriating McCarthy’s detractors.
Aris Folley and Rebecca Beitsch contributed. Updated at 2:07 p.m.