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WASHINGTON — U.S. Reps. Chip Roy, R-Austin, and Michael Cloud, R-Victoria, both vowed to vote against House Majority Leader Steve Scalise shortly after the Louisiana Republican won the party’s nomination to be the next House speaker.
Those votes, combined with a handful of other hard-right Republicans who have said the same, could be enough to stall Scalise from getting the gavel.
Roy and Cloud were two of the three Texans who resisted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership bid in January — contributing to gridlock that forced 15 votes to take place — in order to garner more influence for their wing of the party. U.S. Rep. Keith Self, R-McKinney, the other Texas holdout during those votes, said Wednesday on social media that he voted against Scalise during a closed-door Republican conference meeting before the House-wide vote. He was unclear about how he planned to vote during a floor vote.
The House recessed Wednesday afternoon without voting on a new speaker. Republicans did not set a date for when they will vote next.
Scalise is running against House Judiciary Chair and Freedom Caucus co-founder Jim Jordan of Ohio to replace McCarthy as speaker. McCarthy was removed from his perch following a rebellion by eight far-right members, none of them Texans, who had various grievances with McCarthy. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida led the push and said Wednesday he would support Scalise.
During the House Republican Conference meeting on Wednesday, members voted for Scalise to be their party’s nominee for the House-wide speaker election with 113 votes. Jordan received 99 votes. But whoever Republicans put up to be their candidate needs to win 217 votes in the full House to clinch the gavel.
Roy had pushed for a rule during the meeting that would require a speaker candidate to get at least 217 votes in the Republican conference before scheduling a House-wide vote. The rule was intended to avoid the public fracas that stained the January speaker race and led to a brutally public display of the party’s disarray.
But despite wide support for the rule, the conference voted to table that rule change Wednesday morning.
Roy appeared irate as he left the conference meeting. He declined to talk about the election as he left the room but later posted on social media: “The House GOP should NOT have called a vote at 300pm after finishing the vote at 130pm in Conference. That is unacceptable & purposeful.” He vowed to continue voting against Scalise.
Coming out of a meeting with Scalise on Wednesday night, Roy said he was mainly angry that his rule change was nixed, despite an ideological diverse range of members supporting it, barring the party from appearing more unified. He wouldn’t say if he would eventually support Scalise if he gets more changes to the rules, saying he didn’t want to disclose private discussions. He said the conference is still working out its differences ahead of the House-wide vote.
“There is a tendency in this town for the status quo to take shape and be able to roll over people and steamroll people who are trying to work across ideologies,” Roy said.
Cloud also posted that he found it a “bad, bad idea” to go to a full-House vote with “barely half the conference’s support” for their leading candidate, particularly as Congress must pass government funding legislation to stave off a federal shutdown in about a month’s time.
“While I respect Steve Scalise, the underhanded efforts to rush this vote to the floor without getting full buy-in from the conference is extremely ill-advised and I will not be supporting the nomination on the floor, absent a further discussion,” Cloud said in his post.
Leading up to Wednesday’s meeting, the Texas delegation had been split in their support, with roughly equal numbers backing each of the two top candidates. Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a deeply conservative body, tended to side more with Jordan, who also had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump.
Scalise, meanwhile, had the backing of top McCarthy allies. Scalise rose through the traditional ranks of the House Republican Conference and was the more natural heir with his lengthy resume and formidable fundraising operation.
Not everyone was forthcoming in their support. Several members kept their votes secret until the day of the election. Others said either candidate would have been fine and they were waiting to see who could get the most support and put the whole sordid affair to rest.
“The most important thing for me is, it has to be somebody that can get the number of votes to become speaker. Whoever that person is, I'm not quite clear on that,” said U.S. Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Houston, who declined to say whom he voted for during Wednesday’s party meeting.
Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Richmond, also said he wished there’d been more effort to unite the GOP behind one candidate. Nehls was a major Jordan backer, citing Trump’s endorsement for the Ohioan. Nehls had previously nominated Trump to be speaker, though that nomination effort quickly petered out.
“I think that's very difficult to accomplish right now. I think there should have been more dialogue,” Nehls said. “I just want to make sure that we don't go through what we did in January and embarrass ourselves because it was a clown show.”
Nehls didn’t specify whom he would support on the House floor, suggesting a third candidate like Trump or another McCarthy could unite the party.
Despite the differences, appetite for a prolonged speaker fight, like the one in January, is low throughout the party spectrum. Unlike in January when members voting against McCarthy were holding out to force specific changes to House rules, several Texas Republicans said there is little policy difference between the two candidates.
U.S. Rep. Lance Gooden, R-Terrell, said he was confident more members would switch to Scalise’s side once they saw that he had the support of the majority of Republicans.
“He’ll get elected,” Gooden said of Scalise. “I don't see the disarray that we had back in January.”