Steve Scalise says drops out of race for US House Speaker

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WASHINGTON – Representative Steve Scalise, who Republicans nominated to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, dropped out of the race on Thursday as the party failed to resolve its divisions, prolonging the leadership crisis in the chamber.

Mr Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, had secured his party’s nomination to replace ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy but was still short of the 217 votes needed to be elected on the House floor, as several of his fellow Republicans said they would not support him.

Republicans could afford no more than four defections as they control the House by a narrow 221-212 margin if they wanted to end the House’s leaderless bout that has already lasted nine days.

“I just shared with my colleagues that I was withdrawing my name as a candidate for our Speaker designee,” Mr Scalise told reporters.

“If you look at over the last few weeks, if you look at where our conference is, there is still work to be done … There are still some people that have their own agendas.”

The Republican infighting has left the chamber unable to act to support Israel’s war against Palestinian militants of Hamas and pass government spending bills before funding runs out on Nov 17.

Republicans had been hoping to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing spectacle that occurred in January, when hardline conservatives forced Mr McCarthy to endure 15 floor votes over four days before winning the gavel.

‘At a standstill’

Several Republicans earlier said that they would stick with Mr Scalise’s rival Jim Jordan, who lost out in a secret-ballot vote on Wednesday.

Mr Jordan has encouraged his supporters to vote for Mr Scalise, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

While Mr McCarthy was the first Speaker to be removed in a formal vote, the last two Republicans to hold the job wound up leaving under pressure from party hardliners.

Mr Scalise, 58, gained near legendary status within Republican circles by surviving a severe gunshot wound, after a gunman opened fire during practice for a charity baseball game in 2017.

He also commands widespread respect as a veteran legislator, who has spent years in party leadership positions.

But Mr Scalise also faces new health concerns as he undergoes treatment for multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, which some of Mr Jordan’s supporters citing it as a reason not to vote for him.

Mr Jordan was endorsed by former president Donald Trump and appeared to be the favourite of populist minded hardliners.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump said in an interview with Fox News Radio that he did not object to Mr Scalise as Speaker.

“Steve is a man that is in serious trouble from the standpoint of his cancer. I mean, he’s got to get better for himself,” he said. REUTERS

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