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Rep. Steve Scalise drops out of House speaker race

Jim Jordan thinks the GOP can coalesce around a candidate Friday.

October 12, 2023, 8:55 PM

Rep. Steve Scalise announced Thursday night he is withdrawing his name as a candidate to replace Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House after he failed to secure enough support from the House Republican conference to take his bid to the floor for a vote.

"I just shared with my colleagues that I'm withdrawing my name as a candidate for the speaker designee," Scalise, R-La., told reporters following a hastily arranged huddle with fellow Republicans in front of the press.

"If you look at over the last few weeks, if you look at where our conference is, there's still work to be done," Scalise continued. "Our conference still has to come together and is not there."

PHOTO: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise speaks to reporters as he leaves a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 12, 2023 in Washington, DC.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise speaks to reporters as he leaves a House Republican caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 12, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Scalise, who announced his bid for the speakership a little more than a week ago after McCarthy's ouster, seemed to lash out at his opposition, telling reporters that "there are still some people that have their own agendas" -- not the country's.

"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."

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, who lost a tight secret ballot to Scalise on Wednesday 113-99, emerged from the closed-door conference meeting Thursday night, predicting that Republicans will come together around one candidate for speaker on Friday.

"I think that'll happen tomorrow as we go through the process, but that's tomorrow at 10,” Jordan, R-Ohio, told reporters as he left the meeting. "Any type of announcement about what may or may not happen -- I think that’s best done tomorrow."

Scalise's decision comes just one day after he narrowly won the party's nomination in a private ballot at the Capitol, besting Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Earlier Thursday, Scalise met with House Republicans in a closed-door session. Following the hourslong meeting, Scalise didn't appear to have the 217 votes to become speaker and began the process of meeting with holdouts.

On Thursday night, Scalise said, "There's still schisms that have to get resolved," but he is content remaining House Majority Leader -- the No. 2 Republican in the House.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, talks with reporters following a conference in his office after losing the Republican nomination for speaker to House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, talks with reporters following a conference in his office after losing the Republican nomination for speaker to House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

"I never came here for title," he said. "I've had the challenges. I've been tested in ways that really put perspective on life -- really, the 2017 shooting -- when I didn't know if I was going to make it out alive, taught me what's important in life. And that's my family, my faith, and I'm blessed beyond belief."

In 2017, Scalise was shot at a practice for the annual Congressional Baseball Game. He was shot in the hip, and was in critical condition following the shooting.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise speaks to reporters outside a candidate forum with House Republicans to hear from members running for speaker in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2023
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise speaks to reporters outside a candidate forum with House Republicans to hear from members running for speaker in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 10, 2023 . Republicans in the US House of Representatives began the search for a new leader on October 9, 2023, as the crisis in Israel injected fresh urgency into their struggle to heal the party's bitter internal divisions. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Although he dropped out of the race Thursday night, Scalise said he is committed to fixing the GOP.

"I have absolutely all the right perspective, and I still have a deep, deep passion for making sure we get our country back on track and get our conference fixed," he said. "[There are] some folks that really need to look in the mirror over the next couple of days and decide, are we going to get back on track? Are they going to try to pursue their own agenda? You can't do both."

When Scalise won the GOP nomination Wednesday, Jordan said he planned to vote for Scalise on the floor and encouraged his colleagues to do the same.

Asked if he'd support Jordan for speaker, Scalise told ABC News he hasn't cut any deals and hasn't decided who else to support for speaker.

"No deals with anybody. I'm sure there will be a lot of people that look at it. But it's got to be people that aren't doing it for themselves and their own personal interests," he said.

House Republicans will meet next Friday at 10 a.m. ET to chart a course forward. It's possible other lawmakers will enter the race alongside Jordan, though it appears that the momentum is now behind the Ohio representative even though he lost the head-to-head race against Scalise.

Asked by ABC News whether he feels like members are lining up behind his bid for speaker, Jordan again said he deferred comment out of respect for Scalise.

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