House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) dropped out of the race for Speaker on Thursday, just one day after he won the Republican nomination for the role.
Scalise narrowly prevailed in a secret ballot internal GOP election Wednesday, but it was clear almost immediately that he would struggle to get the 217 votes needed on the House floor.
Momentum swung further against him, and as Thursday progressed, an increasing number of Republicans declared they would not cast their votes for him.
“It’s been quite a journey. And there’s still a long way to go. I just shared with my colleagues that I’m withdrawing my name as a candidate for the Speaker designee,” Scalise said when leaving a GOP conference meeting Thursday night.
It’s not clear where the fractured Republican conference will go next, as the House closes in on 10 days without an elected Speaker. House GOP members are scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. Friday morning to discuss the internal election for a Speaker nominee, and consider changing rules to select one.
Scalise added: “This country is counting on us to come back together. This House of Representatives needs a Speaker, and we need to open up the House again. But clearly, not everybody is there. And there’s still schisms that have to get resolved.”
Those schisms were on full display this week.
Scalise won the Republican nomination over Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) by a vote of 113-99. Jordan threw his support to Scalise, but many of his supporters didn’t follow.
After Scalise’s announcement, Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) said multiple lawmakers were encouraging Jordan to run for Speaker again.
“There are a number of people encouraging him — I’m one of them,” he said.
Jordan, for his part, told reporters that he won’t be announcing his intentions until at least Friday, as the conference works to find a new nominee for Speaker. But opposition to his candidacy is already starting to emerge.
Scalise indicated he would stay on as majority leader, a position that at least three other GOP members had been jockeying for if he moved up to Speaker.
Asked if he is throwing his support behind any other candidate, Scalise said: “I’m not getting involved right now.”
Republican leaders held back from calling a vote on the House floor as the conference held several multihour, closed-door meetings but left each one reporting little progress.
That came after eight Republicans voted with all Democrats to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last week, an unprecedented move that sent the House into chaos.
Scalise on Thursday took a dig at some of the holdouts.
“There’s some folks that really need to look in the mirror over the next couple of days and decide: Are we going to get it back on track, or are they going to try to pursue their own agenda? You can’t do both,” he said.
At the same time, the U.S. is approaching another government shutdown deadline, and war has broken out in Israel.
“You still need to get a Speaker. And I’m going to continue to push as hard as we can to make that happen as quickly as it has to happen,” Scalise said. “But it wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t going to happen today. It wasn’t going to happen tomorrow. It needs to happen soon.”
McCarthy, asked if he would run again as he left the Thursday meeting, said: “Let the conference decide.”
Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) — who some members have been arguing should get expanded powers to move legislation as House Republicans are paralyzed on a choice for Speaker — similarly said it is “up to the will of the conference” when asked if he would run for Speaker, but added that he is looking forward to resuming his work as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
“I did not expect Steve to do that,” said House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), whose name has been floated for Speaker.
Asked if he would run for Speaker, Emmer said: “I’m very disappointed.”
Rep. Mark Alford (R-Mo.) said he was surprised by Scalise’s announcement.
“I think everyone was,” he said.
Asked what comes next, he responded, “I have no earthly idea. I’m a freshman caught up in this maelstrom. We’re a ship that doesn’t have a rudder right now, and I’m thoroughly disappointed in the process.”
Rebecca Beitsch contributed. Updated at 10:04 p.m. ET