THE HILL: Scalise Named As Top Speaker-In-Waiting
The fate of Speaker-designate Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is hanging by a thread as a group of nearly 20 House GOP lawmakers voted against him for the top spot on the first ballot to become Speaker.
While the vote has not been closed, the results point to the level of opposition to a McCarthy Speakership within the GOP conference.
McCarthy has vowed he will fight it out on as many ballots as it takes, but his failure will lead to questions about whether Republicans need to move to a different candidate to unite their members.
Here’s a few lawmakers to keep an eye on.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.)
If everything goes to hell for McCarthy, Scalise is viewed as the natural second option to become Speaker.
The Louisiana Republican has been in the national spotlight ever since he rose to prominence following the 2017 shooting during practice for the Congressional Baseball Game that left him severely injured. However, the incident gave him cache and a standing unlike most non-McCarthy members in the House Republican conference.
For years, Scalise has attempted to tamp down any chatter of a rivalry with McCarthy. He’s been a solid ally of McCarthy’s dating back to 2018 when then-Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) exited Congress. He has also stood shoulder to shoulder alongside him throughout the past year and in recent weeks, having vowed to support McCarthy to the end.
It’s also unclear if Scalise would get to 218 votes on the floor.
Much of the issues with McCarthy have been centered on how GOP leadership has operated in recent years — which Scalise has, of course, been a key cog in for the past decade.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), a leading moderate, on Monday cast doubt over whether Scalise himself could win the Speakership.
“I don’t know,” he said, adding that Scalise and McCarthy are “very similar.”
“They’re almost, to me, they’re the same. They represent a lot of the same ideology, and they’ve built this team together,” Bacon said. “So what’s the purpose of them demanding Kevin to step down?”
On the plus side for Scalise, he has the structure to plug into the Speakership, including a whip counting effort that’s been up and running for years and a top fundraising apparatus. But getting the Speakership would be the big first step.