Three sources familiar with the strategy said that Louisiana Republican and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise made his move to lead the lower chamber before the final votes were cast against then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
One Republican aide said the Scalise team began maneuvering before McCarthy’s “body was cold.”
Someone surmised, “Obviously, they knew information earlier that we didn’t know,” referring to the Democrats’ support for the successful 216-210 vote to remove McCarthy led by the far-right Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
As the votes were counted, another source verified that Scalise was hastily trying to replace McCarthy. The perceived disrespect to the outgoing speaker could hurt the second-place Republican’s chances of becoming speaker.
A Scalise staffer said that it might be difficult for the congressman to win over the necessary 218 votes even with McCarthy’s support.
The Scalise office spokesperson disputed the timeline, calling it inaccurate. After McCarthy’s resignation, however, House Minority Leader Scalise began making phone calls.
The spokesperson also mentioned that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) had announced his candidacy hours before Majority Leader Steve Scalise did.
McCarthy became irate after hearing from a House Republican colleague that Scalise’s outreach was regarded as too early regardless of the exact timing.
After McCarthy’s resignation, Scalise has emerged as a leading contender to succeed him as Speaker of the House. While the GOP caucus is fiercely divided, several of Scalise’s staff members have voiced concerns about his health and leadership.
The Republican congressman from Louisiana was recently diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, and was seen undergoing chemotherapy with a mask on in the US Capitol.
In 2017, during a practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, Scalise was shot and critically injured. Several operations and blood transfusions later, he was able to recover. He is still hobbled.
On Tuesday, Gaetz said he would vote for Scalise or House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).
One GOP insider pointed out that Scalise and Emmer are vulnerable to accusations that they are too moderate for the current caucus because neither has endorsed former President Donald Trump in the 2024 election.
Others, like Republican Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, have advocated for Trump to take up the gavel.
Meanwhile, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), a libertarian, and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a moderate, have publicly stated that Jordan is their first pick for Judiciary chairman.