Scalise urges Republicans to elect McCarthy as House Speaker, but three attempts fail
WASHINGTON D.C. (WVUE) - Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday (Jan. 3), but were unable after three attempts to elect a new Speaker who would be third in line to the presidency.
As the GOP was consumed by infighting, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) urged colleagues to elect Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to the post. But McCarthy failed to amass enough support on three House floor votes.
“Madam Clerk, I rise to nominate Kevin McCarthy for the position of Speaker of House,” Scalise said. “We won a majority talking about fixing those problems. But we can’t start fixing those problems until we elect Kevin McCarthy as our next Speaker.”
Though Republicans now control Congress’ lower chamber after November’s mid-term elections, it was Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) who repeatedly won more votes than McCarthy, due to a unified Democratic caucus in the House and a split among Republicans that saw nearly 20 of the most conservative party members throwing their support to Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and others.
Congressman Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) nominated Jeffries during the three rounds of voting.
“Today, Madam Clerk, House Democrats are united behind a speaker who will put people over politics,” Aguilar said.
Republicans weeks ago chose Scalise to serve as their Majority Leader, the second-highest position in the House.
But Dillard University political analyst Robert Collins, Ph.D. who worked on Capitol Hill, says Scalise could face pressure to seek the speakership if it is clear McCarthy can’t win the necessary 218 votes.
“If this goes to several rounds of votes and if it lasts days, then I think a delegation will probably go to Congressman Scalise and say, ‘Look, we don’t have anybody else and so we need an alternative candidate,’” Collins said. “And so I’m not totally convinced that he is completely out of the running.
“It’s a long shot. But you could have a state of gridlock go on so long that he may feel that he has no choice but accept the nomination.”
Collins said he doesn’t recall a comparable opening day of Congress.
“I have never seen anything like this,” Collins said. “To find anything similar to this in the House of Representatives, you would have to go back in history further than the lifetimes of anyone currently alive. So this is a very historic occasion for a Speaker’s vote to go multiple rounds.”
Even if Scalise is not tapped to become House Speaker, Collins said he will have a lot of power as majority leader.
“It’s a very important position, being majority leader, primarily because the majority leader sets the agenda for the majority party,” he said. “The majority leader will be able to determine which bills make it to committee, which bills make it to the House floor, which bills get a vote.”
And Collins said whoever winds up as Speaker will take the job with diminished power.
“What you have right now is high drama going on,” Collins said. “And regardless of what the outcome is, whoever ends up in the Speaker’s chair is going to be a weakened Speaker, and is going to be presiding over a very fractured and unstable House.”
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