Majority Leader Scalise Enters Speaker Race
WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., has entered the race to replace ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., setting up a two-way contest for the post against Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
In a lengthy letter to the members of his conference, Scalise spoke of his near death from an assassin’s bullet in 2017, and passingly referred to his current, ongoing battle with blood cancer.
“My family was told my chances of surviving were low,” Scalise said of the spring 2017 incident when members of the Republican Congressional Baseball team were ambushed by a gunman during a morning practice.
“When I was in the hospital for nearly 15 weeks, it was the possibility of getting back to work with all of you that kept me motivated to get better,” he continued. “During that time, I was often asked why after nearly losing my life because of this job I would want to go back.
“But it was never a question for me: I love this country, and I believe we were sent here to come together and solve the immense challenges we face,” Scalise said.
“As I face new challenges, I feel even more strongly about that today. I know the coming weeks ahead will be some of the most arduous times we will face together, but this conference is worth fighting for — we cannot lose sight of our shared mission,” he said. “Now, more than ever, we must mend the deep wounds that exist within our conference and focus on our objectives so we can get back to work for the millions of people who are counting on us.”
The Louisiana congressman then went on to highlight the roles he’s played in House leadership.
“You know my leadership style I’ve displayed as your majority leader and whip,” he wrote. “I have a proven track record of bringing together the diverse array of viewpoints within our conference to build consensus where others thought it impossible.
“When I ran to be your majority leader, I made a commitment to turn our conservative agenda into legislative action, facilitate a legislative process built on regular order and member input so all members and their constituents have a voice in the House of Representatives,” he said.
Much of Scalise’s letter was framed around the idea of unity.
“While we have made tremendous progress so far this Congress and have demonstrated that we can unite against failing liberal policies, more work needs to be done,” Scalise said. “We have an extremely talented conference, and we all need to come together and pull in the same direction to get the country back on the right track.”
Later he said, “Our strength as a conference comes from our unity, and we have seen when we unite as a conference, we can deliver wins for the American people. Now we need to take those unified positions and work to extract conservative wins from the Democrat Senate and White House by leveraging upcoming deadlines.
“While we need to be realistic about what can be achieved, if we stay united, we can preserve leverage for the House to secure tangible wins in our impending policy fights. The task before us is not without its challenges, but I believe in this conference and our ability to come together and achieve great things,” Scalise said.
At almost exactly the same time that the majority leader was distributing his letter on Capitol Hill, President Joe Biden made his first public comments about the situation in the House.
They came during an event intended to provide an update on the administration’s efforts to cancel student loan debt.
Biden said the members of Congress need to work together after a new speaker is chosen on keeping the government open again when the next funding deadline arrives in November.
He said next time, he hopes a continuing resolution, if needed, “is done in a timely fashion.”
Asked if the drama surrounding the speakership concerns him in regard to aid to Ukraine, Biden said it does.
“There are a majority of members of both parties that have said they are for Ukraine aid,” he said, adding, “Dysfunction always concerns me.”
He was then asked if he had any advice for the next House speaker.
“That’s above my pay grade,” he joked.