Republicans have elected Steve Scalise as the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
He defeated the other Republican candidate, Jim Jordan, by a 99 to 113 vote in a closed-door meeting at the US Capitol. Jordan was supported by former President Donald Trump.
The Speaker of the House is one of the most important positions in the United States, responsible for leading the lower house of Congress.
The next step will be a vote in the chamber plenary, the date of which is yet to be fixed. Scalise needs a majority of votes (217) to win the position.
The House is now in recess as Scalise struggles to muster the necessary votes in his party.
It is not known when the forum will be called for a full vote. When asked about this, acting chairman Patrick McHenry replied, “We’ll see.”
McHenry added that Scalise “has the right to gather his votes and make sure his timing is right.”
“Let it happen,” he pointed out.
The previous incumbent, Republican Kevin McCarthy, was ousted by lawmakers from his own party who revolted and removed him as House speaker — an unprecedented move in American politics.
Speaking to reporters after the secret vote, Scalise said serving as House speaker would be essential in an “increasingly dangerous world.”
“We want to make sure we’re sending a message … that the House is open.”
Meanwhile, Democrats will nominate Hakeem Jeffries of New York. However, as the minority party, the Democrats’ election is less likely to reach the magic number of 217.
The Republican Party has been mired in infighting in recent weeks and has been unable to reach an agreement on replacing McCarthy.
Scalise’s narrow victory highlighted divisions within the party, and some lawmakers are skeptical that he will get the votes needed to take office.
Among the Republicans who still oppose him is Thomas Massey of Kentucky, who told reporters his rejection was “not strong,” at least in early voting, because of differences with Scalise over budget management.
Massey says he believes at least 20 Republicans will vote against Scalise — significantly more than the five votes he could lose.
Several Republicans, including Lauren Bobert (Colorado), Marjorie Taylor Green (Georgia) and Anna Paulina Luna (Florida), have said they do not intend to vote for Scalise.
Congressman Chip Roy of Texas says his “no” was also serious because the vote was “rushed.”
“Steve has a lot of votes,” says Roy. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to rush into the plenary.”
Scalise is a traditional candidate. He rose to the party leadership, built a reputation as a strong fundraiser, and sought to build connections with all the party’s interest groups and constituencies.
Jim Jordan was an outsider (someone “outside traditional politics”) who became famous for his conservative speeches on television, bombastic rhetoric, and a confrontational stance in groups.
Trump’s support, in the end, was not enough to keep Jordan as the Republican nominee.
While the doors are closed and votes are secret, this suggests that the former president’s influence within the party — at least in the House of Representatives — is not as strong as his popularity in election polls suggests.
But nothing is guaranteed for Scalise. The weak dominance of the Republican vote is the demise of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. To avoid a similar fate, Scalise will need to demonstrate political acumen.
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