‘America wants me’: How GOP Rep. Wagner recalls a private Scalise-Jordan conversation

‘America wants me’: How GOP Rep. Wagner recalls a private Scalise-Jordan conversation

Several backers of Steve Scalise are opposed to Jim Jordan’s potential speakership bid out of frustration with how the Ohioan handled losing to the Louisianan after the House GOP’s internal election this week.

Count Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) in that camp. Asked if she would back Jordan following Scalise’s withdrawal from the speaker chase, she replied: “Absolutely not.”

“Yesterday in conference, he gave the most disgraceful, ungracious — I can’t call it a concession speech — of all time,” the Scalise ally added. “There were gasps in the room.”

Then Wagner recalled another moment that lost Jordan her support. It took place during a private meeting between Scalise and Jordan, less than an hour after the majority leader won the House GOP’s internal speaker ballot. Wagner wasn’t in the room, but she remained outside in Scalise’s office and took in the immediate aftermath.

According to Wagner and other House Republicans briefed on the meeting, Jordan said to Scalise: “You get one ballot. And when you go down, you will nominate me.”

She said Scalise pushed back, arguing he had won by the conference rules, to which Jordan replied: “America wants me,” before storming out the door.

Russell Dye, Jordan’s spokesperson, denied that Wagner’s recollection was accurate and noted that she was not part of the conversation directly.

“This was an entirely cordial conversation and Mr. Scalise said he wanted to go to the floor right away, so Mr. Jordan offered to nominate him on the floor, and requested that if we had to go to the floor and Mr. Scalise didn’t have the votes — he nominate Mr. Jordan, the only other announced candidate for speaker,” Dye said in a statement.

“Mr. Scalise agreed to think about it and said he would call Mr. Jordan in forty-five minutes,” he added. “Mr. Scalise is a great friend to Mr. Jordan and an incredible leader in our conference.”

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