Politics

Scalise pledges to back GOP nominee for speaker — whoever they are

Speaker hopeful Steve Scalise isn’t looking to punish the eight Republicans who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy.

While the Louisiana Republican acknowledged in an interview with POLITICO that right now “there’s frustration and anger” among members, he argued that it’s time for the warring factions of the conference to come together to advance party goals. And he’s pitching himself as the guy who can make that happen.

He pointed to Republican legislation he’s help craft in the past, including bills on energy, border security, the parents’ bill of rights, health care and tax policy.

“Look, the conversations right now are: How do we get back on track? How we come back together?” Scalise said on Friday. “My background is somebody who’s built coalitions, who has united Republicans to come together on really tough things.”

“We don’t have the luxury of a big majority,” he added.

In a nod to that sentiment, Scalise said he would support whoever the House GOP nominates as its choice for speaker, even if that’s not him. He called on others in the race, which is currently only Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), to do the same.

“I want to be the nominee, but I’ll support the nominee,” he said.

Jordan is a favorite of House conservatives, the same bloc who relished in embarrassing ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the floor in January. Though Scalise has more buy-in from that group than McCarthy did, there’s still a concern among members that if Scalise wins the GOP nomination — which only takes half of all House Republicans — that some of those hardliners will oppose him on the floor, leaving the institution deadlocked once again.

Scalise is open to revising the controversial rule that then allowed a small group of those members to boot McCarthy this week. But, he added, the entire conference needed to make the decision.

“It’s going to take everybody in our conference working together if we’re going to change that,” he acknowledged.

He’s not a fan of another proposed rule change being discussed by dozens of GOP members across the ideological spectrum, however: to raise the threshold of support a speaker candidate needs in order to win the GOP nomination for the gavel. Right now, that threshold is a simple majority of the conference, but supporters want to eliminate the possibility of another embarrassing House floor spectacle.

“We’re running on what the rules have always been, so let’s go get it done,” he said.

In bad news for the Democrats and President Joe Biden, Scalise also appeared to be in lock step with conservative hardliners who wanted to cut spending below the levels McCarthy and Biden agreed to earlier this year. While he dodged multiple questions about whether he’d be willing to embrace a shutdown, particularly if Democrats oppose stricter border policies, the leader said he wants to sit down with Biden on day one to discuss both the border and getting “our economy back on track.”

“There’s a clock ticking now … we’re going to be in the 30s on days remaining when I become speaker,” he said, referring to the new Nov. 17 shutdown deadline. “That’s why, day one, I want to go sit down with the president.”

In a change from McCarthy, however, Scalise wants to talk about entitlement reform — an issue that has become almost taboo with the more populist wing of the party.

“Wherever the top line number is, you still have other issues that are big problems, not just on spending, but on what’s driving inflation, which is part of the spending problem,” he said. “And, you know, getting a debt commission to address the long-term debt and the immediate term issues that are leading to insolvency — you know Medicare, Social Security. Those are kinds of things are things that we want to talk about, too, that aren’t being discussed that need to be put on the table.”

Scalise said he’s been assuring Republicans that, under his leadership, they wouldn’t be waiting to pass spending bills — as the conference did under McCarthy. Conservatives continuously blasted the California Republican for what they saw as lollygagging, arguing that he would wait until the last minute then use deadlines to undercut the right flank’s demands. Scalise vowed to move spending bills right away.

“We also shouldn’t be waiting until the next deadline,” he said.

And he pointed to a key difference between him and Jordan, without mentioning his competition, that would appeal more to centrists: He voted to avert the shutdown by backing the continuing resolution. Left unsaid: the fact that Jordan — who has cheered shutdowns in the past — did not.

In fact, Scalise sidestepped multiple questions about potential weaknesses of Jordan, who makes some centrists uneasy, both because of his hardline tactics and how a Speaker Jordan would play back in their purple districts.

“I’m laying out my vision,” he said. “Jim and I are friends, so he’s gonna lay out his vision.”

Privately, some Republicans have floated Scalise and Jordan running as a slate, with Scalise as speaker and Jordan as majority leader, if the Louisianan fails to garner 218 votes on the floor. But Scalise said he’s not there yet.

“I don’t approach this from a negative standpoint,” he said. “I’ve always been a very optimistic person. So I focused on: You just wake up every day and you work hard for the things that you believe in … And that’s served me well and I’m not going to slow down.”

Speaker hopeful Steve Scalise isn’t looking to punish the eight Republicans who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy.
While the Louisiana Republican acknowledged in an interview with POLITICO that right now “there’s frustration and anger” among members, he argued that it’s time for the warring factions of the conference to come together to advance party goals. And he’s pitching himself as the guy who can make that happen.
He pointed to Republican legislation he’s help craft in the past, including bills on energy, border security, the parents’ bill of rights, health care and tax policy.
“Look, the conversations right now are: How do we get back on track? How we come back together?” Scalise said on Friday. “My background is somebody who’s built coalitions, who has united Republicans to come together on really tough things.”
“We don’t have the luxury of a big majority,” he added.
In a nod to that sentiment, Scalise said he would support whoever the House GOP nominates as its choice for speaker, even if that’s not him. He called on others in the race, which is currently only Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), to do the same.
“I want to be the nominee, but I’ll support the nominee,” he said.
Jordan is a favorite of House conservatives, the same bloc who relished in embarrassing ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the floor in January. Though Scalise has more buy-in from that group than McCarthy did, there’s still a concern among members that if Scalise wins the GOP nomination — which only takes half of all House Republicans — that some of those hardliners will oppose him on the floor, leaving the institution deadlocked once again.
Scalise is open to revising the controversial rule that then allowed a small group of those members to boot McCarthy this week. But, he added, the entire conference needed to make the decision.
“It’s going to take everybody in our conference working together if we’re going to change that,” he acknowledged.
He’s not a fan of another proposed rule change being discussed by dozens of GOP members across the ideological spectrum, however: to raise the threshold of support a speaker candidate needs in order to win the GOP nomination for the gavel. Right now, that threshold is a simple majority of the conference, but supporters want to eliminate the possibility of another embarrassing House floor spectacle.
“We’re running on what the rules have always been, so let’s go get it done,” he said.
In bad news for the Democrats and President Joe Biden, Scalise also appeared to be in lock step with conservative hardliners who wanted to cut spending below the levels McCarthy and Biden agreed to earlier this year. While he dodged multiple questions about whether he’d be willing to embrace a shutdown, particularly if Democrats oppose stricter border policies, the leader said he wants to sit down with Biden on day one to discuss both the border and getting “our economy back on track.”
“There’s a clock ticking now … we’re going to be in the 30s on days remaining when I become speaker,” he said, referring to the new Nov. 17 shutdown deadline. “That’s why, day one, I want to go sit down with the president.”
In a change from McCarthy, however, Scalise wants to talk about entitlement reform — an issue that has become almost taboo with the more populist wing of the party.
“Wherever the top line number is, you still have other issues that are big problems, not just on spending, but on what’s driving inflation, which is part of the spending problem,” he said. “And, you know, getting a debt commission to address the long-term debt and the immediate term issues that are leading to insolvency — you know Medicare, Social Security. Those are kinds of things are things that we want to talk about, too, that aren’t being discussed that need to be put on the table.”
Scalise said he’s been assuring Republicans that, under his leadership, they wouldn’t be waiting to pass spending bills — as the conference did under McCarthy. Conservatives continuously blasted the California Republican for what they saw as lollygagging, arguing that he would wait until the last minute then use deadlines to undercut the right flank’s demands. Scalise vowed to move spending bills right away.
“We also shouldn’t be waiting until the next deadline,” he said.
And he pointed to a key difference between him and Jordan, without mentioning his competition, that would appeal more to centrists: He voted to avert the shutdown by backing the continuing resolution. Left unsaid: the fact that Jordan — who has cheered shutdowns in the past — did not.
In fact, Scalise sidestepped multiple questions about potential weaknesses of Jordan, who makes some centrists uneasy, both because of his hardline tactics and how a Speaker Jordan would play back in their purple districts.
“I’m laying out my vision,” he said. “Jim and I are friends, so he’s gonna lay out his vision.”
Privately, some Republicans have floated Scalise and Jordan running as a slate, with Scalise as speaker and Jordan as majority leader, if the Louisianan fails to garner 218 votes on the floor. But Scalise said he’s not there yet.
“I don’t approach this from a negative standpoint,” he said. “I’ve always been a very optimistic person. So I focused on: You just wake up every day and you work hard for the things that you believe in … And that’s served me well and I’m not going to slow down.”  

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