How the House speaker election might work

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House Republicans met privately Wednesday and nominated Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana to be their next speaker, more than a week after Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the lower chamber’s top job.

Scalise edged out Rep. Jim Jordan — the founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump — in a 113-99 vote in a secret ballot done behind closed doors.

A handful of lawmakers emerged from the vote saying they plan to back other candidates on the floor, putting the chances of Scalise securing the position in jeopardy.

The House adjourned Wednesday without holding a floor vote needed for Scalise to be elected as McCarthy’s replacement.

What needs to happen for Scalise to become speaker?

Steve Scalise

Rep. Steve Scalise leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

To win the speakership, Scalise needs to win a majority of the full House if all 433 members — including Democrats — choose to take part in the vote.



If any of the members choose to vote present, that would lower the threshold needed for a majority. Still, in order to get to 217, Scalise would need the support of nearly all 221 Republicans in the House chamber.

According to NBC News, House Democrats met behind closed doors on Tuesday night and unanimously renominated Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York for speaker. Back in January, Jeffries received unanimous support from Democrats on all 15 ballots it took to elect McCarthy.

The House is set to reconvene on Thursday afternoon, but as of now, no floor votes have been scheduled.

Who is and isn’t backing Scalise?

Reps. Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise confer during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 8, 2022. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Reps. Jim Jordan, left, and Steve Scalise confer during a news conference at the Capitol, June 8. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida firebrand who antagonized McCarthy for months and eventually engineered his ouster, has said that either Jordan or Scalise would “represent a monumental step forward.” Gaetz emerged from Thursday’s closed-door election and told reporters, “Long live Speaker Scalise!”

Jordan is reportedly ready to endorse Scalise and according to Axios has even offered to give his formal nominating speech on the House floor.

But several of Jordan’s ardent supporters, including Reps. Max Miller of Ohio, Troy Nehls of Texas, Mary Miller of Illinois, Bob Good of Virginia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, say they will vote for Jordan on the House floor.

Recommended reading

• NBC News: How the House will elect a new speaker: What to know ahead of the vote

• CNN: Scalise faces a key math problem as he struggles to collect 217 votes

• The Hill: Here is the list of Republican holdouts Scalise needs for speaker

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a McCarthy ally, said she would rather Scalise focus on his health than serve as speaker. Scalise is currently being treated for multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer.

Several of McCarthy’s other staunch supporters, including Rep. Carlos Giménez of Florida, have said they will not support Scalise.

And indicted Rep. George Santos of New York posted on X late last night that he’s never heard from Scalise since being in Congress and won’t back him.

Who are the candidates likely to emerge if Scalise falters?

Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Rep. Kevin McCarthy speaking to reporters hours after he was ousted as speaker of the House, Oct. 3. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who has been acting as speaker pro tempore since the House voted to remove McCarthy, could emerge if Scalise fails to win enough support to secure the speaker’s gavel.

Another possible candidate is Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who is currently in the No. 3 spot in House leadership as majority whip.

Jordan, of course, could reemerge as a candidate for speaker if Scalise falters.

And what about McCarthy? And after previously ruling himself out, McCarthy reversed course earlier this week and said he would be willing to return.

The uncertainty surrounding the speakership comes at a critical time on Capitol Hill, with government funding set to run out next month and Israel — the U.S.’s top ally in the Middle East — now at war.

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