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Scalise drops out of race for speaker of the House, leaving Congress in limbo

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of La., talks to the press as he leaves the House Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Thursday.
Jose Luis Magana
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of La., talks to the press as he leaves the House Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Thursday.

Updated October 12, 2023 at 9:18 PM ET

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., has dropped out of the race to become the new House speaker, after failing to secure enough support for his bid to succeed on the floor.

"I was very clear we have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs," Scalise told reporters in the Capitol. "This country is counting on us to come back together. This House of Representatives needs a speaker, and we need to open up the House again."

Scalise informed House Republicans of his plans during a closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol.

Scalise, the current Republican majority leader, won a narrow majority of the conference in a closed-door, secret-ballot election on Wednesday. By a vote of 113-99, Scalise defeated House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, but was far short of the votes needed to win a majority of the full House: 217 if all current members are present and voting.

He spent days meeting with holdouts to try to assuage their concerns, but his path to 217 remained murky.

With no speaker and no Republican nominee for speaker, the House remains frozen as war rages between Israel and Hamas and a government funding deadline looms on Nov. 17. Republicans will meet Friday morning to discuss the path forward.

It was not clear Thursday evening whether Jordan would reenter the race, but he would likely face similar difficulty in securing 217 votes. At this point, it's unclear that any Republican could achieve that level of support within the divided conference.

Rep. Mark Alford, R-Mo., told reporters after the meeting that he had "no earthly idea" what happens next.

"We're a ship that doesn't have a rudder right now and I'm thoroughly disappointed in the process," Alford said.

Alford added that he believes there is a consensus among Republicans to stay in Washington until the issue is settled.

"Senate comes back Monday," he said. "We've got to do our job."

This is a developing story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: October 12, 2023 at 12:00 AM EDT
An earlier version of this story mistakenly said Rep. Steve Scalise defeated Rep. Jim Jordan in a 110-99 vote for House Republicans' speaker nominee. In fact, the vote was 113-99.
Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.