Republicans Have Come Up With Some Weird Reasons Not To Like Steve Scalise

Republicans Have Come Up With Some Weird Reasons Not To Like Steve Scalise

WASHINGTON ― For a man who won the majority of his party’s votes on Wednesday to become the new House speaker, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) sure has detractors among his fellow House Republicans.

While he came out on top of a 113 to 99 vote in the House GOP conference, Scalise’s prospects for getting enough Republicans to back him to ensure his victory on the chamber floor quickly shriveled. The reasons given for not backing him range from the petty to the esoteric, and point to the difficulties Scalise may have in uniting 217 Republicans to vote for him on the floor.

Previous Republican rebellions, such as the battles between then-Speaker John Boehner and the House Freedom Caucus, generally involved leadership facing down a united bloc of conservatives seeking to move the caucus rightward. But Scalise’s skeptics are more scattershot ideologically, ranging from right-wing diehards like of Georgia to relative moderates like Mike Lawler of New York

The diverse opposition may prove far more difficult to pick off, since moves to appease one group of critics may only serve to aggravate another. And there are a handful of members with particularly personal problems with Scalise, or issues he simply can’t solve. 

Republicans Have Come Up With Some Weird Reasons Not To Like Steve Scalise

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) leaves a House Republican conference meeting Thursday at the U.S. Capitol.

One Republican representative said Wednesday night he was miffed simply because Scalise had not picked up a phone and dialed his number to ask for his support. 

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who can vote for speaker even though he is barred from serving on House committees because he was indicted, posted on social media Wednesday night that he assumed Scalise did not want his support because he had not called him.

“I’ve made my decision and after 10 months and having had 0 contact or outreach from him, I’ve come to the conclusion that my VOTE doesn’t matter to him,” Santos said. 

On Thursday morning, Santos told HuffPost that Scalise still had not called, despite his public plea.

“If the leader isn’t able to call each and every member of the conference, no matter what circumstances, that’s not a leader, so he’s never gonna get my vote,” Santos said.

(One reason Scalise might not have reached out is that Santos has repeatedly lied about his background and has been criminally indicted for various frauds for which one of his alleged co-conspirators has already pleaded guilty.)

Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), an outspoken opponent of his colleagues’ efforts to thwart their own leadership, ridiculed the phone call gripe on Thursday.

“What do you want, a fucking massage?” Crenshaw told HuffPost. “This is just childish.”

“I mean, give me a break. Grow up if you’re going to be in this business,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), another Scalise backer.

What do you want, a fucking massage?Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas)

But a lack of communication wasn’t the only reason Republicans gave for not backing Scalise.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said Wednesday night he would back Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) for speaker because Scalise is too much a creature of the Washington swamp, meaning he is insufficiently conservative and overly willing to compromise with Democrats.

Even though he is a long-serving member of House Republican leadership, Republicans generally consider Scalise more conservative than Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was ousted last week after avoiding a government shutdown with help from Democrats. Scalise may be less of a right-winger than Jordan, whom he defeated in the vote to become the conference’s nominee for speaker, but Jordan himself said he plans to make a nominating speech on Scalise’s behalf.

“Tell me Steve Scalise isn’t conservative,” said Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.), who is supporting Scalise for speaker.

Roy said he was also upset that his proposal to change how House Republicans pick their speaker nominee ― he aimed to require a much higher vote threshold than a mere majority ― was scuttled without much debate.

“It was kind of, let’s just say, dismissed by a certain bloc,” Roy said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.) arrives for a meeting of House Republicans on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.) arrives for a meeting of House Republicans  on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Another reason offered by Scalise opponents: They’re opposing him for his own good.

Greene, for example, said she’ll vote for Jordan not because Scalise is a swamp creature or because he’s insufficiently conservative, but because he’s not healthy enough. Scalise announced earlier this year that he’s undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. He said last month that tests showed the cancer had dropped dramatically, but apparently not enough for Greene.  

“I like Steve Scalise, and I like him so much that I want to see him defeat cancer more than sacrifice his health in the most difficult position in Congress,” Greene wrote on social media. 

Former President Donald Trump seemingly echoed Greene Thursday, saying in a Fox News interview the treatment is like “a draining of strength.” Trump had backed Jordan for speaker ahead of the House Republican vote.

HuffPost asked lawmakers if the people holding out might be doing it for attention and self-aggrandizement.

“You could make a very reasonable argument for that, couldn’t you?” Van Orden said.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who voted to oust McCarthy despite his financial support for her in a tough primary, said she couldn’t vote for Scalise because of his now-infamous boast that he was “David Duke without the baggage.” Duke is a notorious white supremacist and former Louisiana political figure.

“I, personally, cannot in good conscience vote for someone who attended a white supremacist conference and compared himself to David Duke. I would be doing an enormous disservice to the voters that I represent in South Carolina if I were to do that,” she said.

Scalise’s attendance was in 2002 and he has said he was not aware the group believed in white supremacy and he would not have gone if he had known. The comparison to Duke has been widely reported since at least 2014.

But Mace posted a photo with Scalise on Instagram in 2020, saying “Republican leadership like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise are all uniting behind my campaign because they know no one will work harder than I will.”

On Thursday, in a rare move, Mace declined to be interviewed about her stance on Scalise. 

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said he was not voting for Scalise because he wanted to make sure spending cuts that would affect most government programs across the board would take place next spring, as scheduled under the debt limit deal Republicans and the White House reached in May. He said he feared Scalise would reach an agreement to make smaller cuts instead.

The automatic spending cuts were included in the deal on a bipartisan basis to actually encourage a deal on spending bills.

“I’m concerned he doesn’t want to leverage that 1% cut that’s already been signed into law by Joe Biden,” Massie said.

Massie said his reasoning was his alone and not part of a larger anti-Scalise effort.

“This is what I think is the right thing and that’s why I’m doing it,” he said.

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