US Republicans want to make Scalise the new chairman of the House of Representatives

The US Republicans want to make the arch-conservative MP Steve Scalise chairman of the House of Representatives as the successor to the deposed Kevin McCarthy. In a group vote behind closed doors on Wednesday, the Conservative majority leader in the House of Representatives prevailed over his rival Jim Jordan. According to US media, the 58-year-old received 113 votes, while Jordan, who was supported by former President Donald Trump, received 99 votes.

However, it is unclear whether Scalise – most recently the group’s number 2 behind McCarthy – will receive the necessary majority in the entire chamber. Several Republicans, including right-wing MP Marjorie Taylor Greene, announced that they would vote for Jordan despite the group’s vote in the plenary session.

Since the Republicans only have a narrow majority, they have to be almost unanimously behind their candidate. But the party is deeply divided. While Scalise had initially aimed for a quick vote in the plenary session, according to US media there was no longer a vote on Wednesday. A parliamentary session that began in the afternoon ended after a few minutes.

Scalise had previously urged people to hurry up: “We have a lot of work to do,” said the representative from the southern state of Louisiana, referring in particular to new US aid to Israel after the major attack by the radical Islamic Palestinian organization Hamas.

McCarthy was ousted a week ago in a revolt by the Republicans’ far-right wing. The hardliner Matt Gaetz had filed a motion to dismiss the 58-year-old in the dispute over budget policy and new aid to Ukraine. In the decisive vote, eight ultra-right Republicans voted against McCarthy together with President Joe Biden’s Democrats. This was the first time in US history that a head of the House of Representatives was removed.

The Chamber of Congress is paralyzed for the time being – and in difficult times. Without a chairman, the congressional chamber cannot decide on new aid for Ukraine or Israel. The recent escalation of the Middle East conflict has increased the pressure to quickly elect a new chairman and thus make the House of Representatives capable of acting again. In addition, without a budget agreement in Congress, there is a risk of a so-called shutdown in mid-November.

The House of Representatives normally has 435 members. There are currently 433 representatives due to two vacancies: 221 Republicans and 212 Democrats. To be elected chairman, 217 votes are required.

McCarthy was elected leader of the House of Representatives in January after Republicans won the majority in the November 2022 congressional midterm elections. But in the face of opposition from within his own ranks, he needed a record 15 ballots to be elected to the third-highest state office – a chaos that Republicans now want to avoid.

Scalise was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2008 and moved into the parliamentary group leadership a few years later. In 2017, he was seriously injured in a gun attack on a baseball team made up of Republican members of Congress.