After Scalise bows out of speaker race, Georgia lawmakers consider next steps

WASHINGTON — After Majority Leader Steve Scalise surprised fellow Republicans Thursday night by announcing he was ending his bid to become U.S. House speaker, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said it was time to pivot to the second-place finisher and her preferred choice.

Greene is among the lawmakers who helped doom Scalise’s ascension by making it clear that even though he was the party’s nominee for speaker they would not support him on the House floor. Greene’s candidate is Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, and she said she hopes fellow Republicans are willing to consider nominating him during yet another closed-door meeting scheduled for Friday morning.

“The only way to know is taking a vote and see where someone is; I think that’s the right thing to do,” Greene, a Rome Republican, said.

Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, had been the party’s speaker nominee for about 30 hours. Although he won support from a majority of GOP members on Wednesday, he never built the support needed to ensure he could be elected speaker.

Greene was among the conservatives who said they would back Jordan or others if the vote was brought to the House floor, where Democrats would also have a say. After a day of making attempts to win over his detractors, Scalise said he would bow out instead.

“I never came here for a title, and it’s much bigger than me,” he told reporters after making the announcement privately to colleagues.

Scalise said he will continue in his current role as the GOP majority leader.

Georgia Rep. Andrew Clyde was also among those who were backing Jordan, even after Scalise’s nomination. He said Thursday night that he still backs Jordan, a founder and the inaugural chair of the House Freedom Caucus, although he acknowledged other candidates might emerge overnight prior to the scheduled 10 a.m. meeting Friday.

Prior to considering any new nominees for speaker, Republicans will discuss changing their internal rules to require that the party’s nominee receive enough support within the caucus to win on the floor before a vote is called. There are 221 House Republicans, and under the current rules only a simple majority is needed to become the party’s speaker nominee.

However, that nominee will need support from at least 217 Republicans on the House floor to become speaker because Democrats are unlikely to support the GOP candidate. Clyde, who represents northeast Georgia, said fellow Republicans should consider making that higher threshold a requirement before the nominee gets to the floor.

“I think it’s important that our conference rules mirror our House rules, because when you have two sets of rules, and they’re different, you can have conflict,” he said. “And that’s kind of what we have right now.”

While Greene and Clyde are backing Jordan, fellow Georgia Rep. Austin Scott spoke during Thursday’s meeting to say he would never support the ultra-conservative lawmaker.

Scott, R-Tifton, had been loyal to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted by a group of eight hardliners who voted with Democrats to have McCarthy removed from office. More recently, Scott was among the majority of GOP members who supported Scalise succeeding McCarthy as speaker.

Rep. Rick Allen, who hails from Augusta, was also a McCarthy then Scalise supporter. He said Scalise’s announcement Thursday night came as a shock and that it leaves questions about how to move forward when two men who had the support of more than half of GOP members were taken down.

“These people have given their lives to not only this conference but this country, and everybody has great intentions,” Allen said. “And of course they had the majority vote. And so if you don’t rule by majority, you’re gonna have chaos.”

While many Republican lawmakers stuck around for Thursday night’s meeting and planned to attend the Friday session, there were others who decided to head home Thursday even before Scalise’s announcement.

Among them was Rep. Mike Collins, whose posts on social media throughout the day became more exasperated.

“Will get cliff notes from Twitter,” the Jackson Republican wrote on X after receiving notice about the Thursday night meeting. “Y’all have fun.”

After Scalise stepped down, Collins quipped that GOP lawmakers should use a new method for choosing the next leader.

“We should just have a lottery,” he wrote. “If you lose, you have to be speaker.”