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House Republicans pick Scalise as speaker — full chamber has yet to vote

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

House Republicans nominated Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise to serve as the next speaker of the House.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Scalise won an internal GOP election against House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan, but he does not have the votes to be elected by the full House of Representatives, and so the House remains frozen. Even with bipartisan calls to pass legislation supporting Israel in its war against Hamas, nothing can happen until a new speaker is elected.

MARTÍNEZ: Here's NPR's congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Deirdre, what is the holdup here?

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: He's still significantly short on the votes to win. Scalise is still facing a lot of resistance from fellow Republicans. As you said, he won the internal vote. He had 113 votes to 99 for Jordan. But Scalise needs 217 to be elected by the full House. Jordan quickly got behind Scalise after he won the internal vote, but some of Jordan's supporters say they still want to vote for him on the floor. Scalise can only afford to lose a handful of votes. There are 221 Republicans if they all show up to vote. There's a - significantly more than a few Jordan backers are just not budging - people like Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia, Chip Roy from Texas, Lauren Boebert from Colorado.

But what Republicans really want to avoid is another big, public messy scene on the House floor when they need multiple rounds to elect a speaker. Scalise has been meeting one on one with these holdouts, but that could take a while. The list of Republicans still opposing him includes people with different concerns and demands, and it's really unclear what it could take for him to win them over.

MARTÍNEZ: So if Scalise, though, became speaker, what would be his most immediate challenge right off the bat?

WALSH: I mean, he has that razor-thin House majority, the same issue McCarthy had. Also, just the last week of chaos without a speaker has a lot of Republicans worried they look like they just can't govern right now. The House can't vote on anything. This comes at a time when Israel is dealing with that surprise attack from Hamas. Scalise made it clear his top priority would be to bring up a resolution supporting Israel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE SCALISE: We have a lot of work to do not just in the House for the people of this country, but we see how dangerous of a world it is and how things can change so quickly.

WALSH: The other big challenge for the next speaker is the federal government is still operating under a temporary funding bill, and that runs out November 17. So the next speaker still has just weeks to avoid a government shutdown and would have to negotiate a compromise with the Democratic Senate and President Biden.

MARTÍNEZ: Tell us about Steve Scalise. He was McCarthy's No. 2. What else about him, though, did he pitch to get this nomination?

WALSH: Well, his experience in leadership - he's been part of the leadership team for about a decade. He argued he could bring unity after a really divisive week following McCarthy's ouster. He's more conservative than McCarthy, but just like McCarthy and Jim Jordan, Scalise voted against certifying the 2020 election results. One of Jordan's supporters, South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace, said she's not going to vote for Scalise, citing on the fact that he met with a group of white supremacists. That happened back in 2002, when he was a state representative. He later apologized.

Personally, Scalise has gone through a lot. He was a victim of a mass shooting in 2017, and he almost died. Recently, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. But Scalise says he's doing well. He's up to the job as speaker.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks for sorting this out.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.