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Scalise quits House speaker race. Failed to get needed support for a floor vote

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

House Republicans are again without a plan.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the current House majority leader, made it just over 24 hours as the party's nominee for speaker before withdrawing his name.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STEVE SCALISE: We have to have everybody put their agendas on the side and focus on what this country needs. This country is counting on us to come back together.

FADEL: Now Republicans go back to the drawing board.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales has been in the Capitol throughout all of this. She joins us now. Claudia, the House has been without a speaker, what, for 10 days now? And House Republicans appear to be back exactly where they started. I mean, is that where things really stand right now?

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, A. Yes, basically, that is where they stand. I saw a lot of members leaving their meeting last night after Scalise made those remarks. They were frustrated. They were exhausted. They were exasperated. They will meet again this morning, but it's not clear exactly what that will achieve. There's lots of talk about working through the weekend, but the same problems they faced last week and two weeks ago are the same problems they face today. And Congress can't do much of anything right now. The Senate comes back next week, and they're facing a government spending deadline in just over a month from today.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, anyone named or not named Steve Scalise who could actually become speaker at this point?

GRISALES: That is really unclear right now. A Republican candidate who runs to become speaker of the House has to aim to get 217 of 221 members in the conference, so that means everyone in that conference has to be on board. One member, Mark Alford from Missouri, kept saying the party is entirely rudderless. He put it this way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARK ALFORD: And someone said, you know, you could put Jesus Christ up for speaker of the House and he still wouldn't get 217.

GRISALES: He called it a troubling time for his conference. And they can't even get to a point where they can pass a resolution to take a stand for Israel. He says there's issues of deep mistrust, communication problems, pettiness, vindictiveness. And he said that things are, quote, "jacked up right now." But he also said he would not sacrifice everything he had to be there if they could not find their way back.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. Any names at all being floated?

GRISALES: Well, there's lots of talks of empowering the acting speaker. This is Patrick McHenry. But there's lots of questions about the Constitution, whether this is even legal. We've heard people mention tapping House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan again, even though he failed to get a majority of the votes earlier this week. And some have even pushed former President Donald Trump or re-nominating the speaker who was ousted, Kevin McCarthy. But we've heard Democrats suggest even some kind of unity plan at this stage.

MARTÍNEZ: Any of those likely?

GRISALES: It's hard to see at this point. There's a lot of factions that are not moving on both sides. The far right has a lot of demands here still in terms of what we saw, especially when McCarthy was forced out. And again, I've heard a lot of stories of members shouting at each other in private meetings. There's just lots of acrimony here.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So this is what it is, Claudia. Are Republicans worried, though, about the ramifications of what all this means?

GRISALES: Yes, yes, some absolutely are. But the Senate returns Monday. They're hoping that's going to ramp up pressure and they can handle all the issues that are facing them at this moment.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Thanks a lot for sorting this out.

GRISALES: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ATHLETIC PROGRESSION'S "EMMELEV") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.