Scalise hits a wall. Time for Plan B?

Scalise hits a wall. Time for Plan B?

He still doesn’t have the votes: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise might have won the House GOP’s nomination to serve as speaker. But a growing number of members say he doesn’t have the 217 votes he needs to win the gavel on the floor — and some are casting serious doubt on whether he can ever get there.

The GOP conference met Thursday afternoon for almost three hours, with a majority of the members emerging frustrated, disillusioned and ready to turn to other options.

None of the dozen-plus members who raised objections to Scalise after Wednesday’s nomination vote indicated they had changed their minds. In fact, Scalise lost support Thursday, with Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) reversing course after previously saying she’d back the Louisianan.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), the House Freedom Caucus chair, stopped short of calling on Scalise to drop out but warned, “I don’t see a path for Steve to get to 217.” Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) posted to X, “I love Steve, but if the votes are not there, let’s move on.”

The way forward for the House GOP continues to be murky. Scalise has not shown any interest in taking his fight to the floor the same way former Speaker Kevin McCarthy did in January. Instead, he’s spending the evening meeting with small groups of members in hopes of moving the needle in his direction. Members have been told there could be another Republican conference meeting later Thursday night.

Hopes that any further talks will be fruitful are fading.

“In terms of our ability to advance a candidate to become the 56th speaker I don’t see the light at the end of that tunnel,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told reporters after the GOP conference meeting. “That’s a mirage right now.”

Plan B: Some Republicans are saying the quiet part out loud: Is it time to rally behind another candidate for speaker? Or is it time to empower the acting speaker pro tempore, Patrick McHenry?

Many conservative members continued to profess their support for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who fell short to Scalise in Wednesday’s nomination vote and is now publicly backing Scalise. Others are pining for another candidate to step forward, one wholly outside the current GOP leadership ranks.

But with pressing issues for Congress to address — including a Nov. 17 government funding deadline and a potential aid package for Israel — talk of a temporary arrangement that would allow the House to get back to business is heating up.

“If we are still at [loggerheads], in short order, that’s going to have to be something that is discussed,” Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) told Huddle, on the possibility of granting McHenry expanded powers.

How that could go: McHenry was chosen to step in as acting speaker by McCarthy ahead of last week’s booting, but — as we discussed last week — his powers are limited: McHenry is claiming he can only facilitate a new speaker’s election.

Some Republicans are discussing moving to give McHenry expanded abilities to temporarily run the chamber as the GOP infighting drags on and pressure mounts for the House to start governing again.

But even that is a point of contention inside the House GOP. Some conservatives are wary of McHenry, a close McCarthy ally, and others say they don’t want to ease the pressure to pick a new permanent speaker.

“The solution is not added powers for the speaker pro tem,” said Rep. Mark Alford (R-Mo.). “The solution is getting a speaker to the floor.”

VIBE CHECK: Lots of Republicans shared their grievances with Thursday’s conference meeting and how long it’s taking for them to elect a new speaker. Here are a few of the spicier quotes:

  • Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.): “This is petty. This is petty. And I’m getting frickin’ tired of it.”
  • Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas): “If you see smoke, it’s not a speaker. Someone just set the place on fire.” (h/t Ali Vitali)
  • Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.): “I don’t know that Mother Teresa could walk in there and get to 217.” (h/t Ben Jacobs)
  • Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio), singing on his way in: “Fly me to the moon — so I can get the hell out of here.”

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed.

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