Scalise Scrounges for Votes as G.O.P. Speaker Fight Drags On

Scalise Scrounges for Votes as GOP Speaker Fight Drags On | ltc-a

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana scrounged on Thursday for the support to be elected speaker as Republicans balked at rallying around their party’s chosen candidate, leaving the House leaderless and the G.O.P. in chaos.

A day after being narrowly nominated for speaker during a closed-door secret-ballot contest among House Republicans, Mr. Scalise, their No. 2 leader, remained far from the 217 votes needed to be elected on the House floor. Supporters of his challenger, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, said they were not giving up, citing the hard-right lawmaker’s popularity with the Republican base.

“That was the inside race; now the outside race starts,” Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a supporter of Mr. Jordan’s, said of the nomination on Wednesday. “And by at least four to one, Republicans who elect us prefer Jim Jordan over Steve Scalise.”

Mr. Massie suggested that some lawmakers who backed Mr. Scalise privately would not want to cross their party’s most ardent supporters, particularly after former President Donald J. Trump endorsed Mr. Jordan, a founder of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus. “You may have some people who privately voted for Scalise but publicly won’t do that,” Mr. Massie said.

Adding to the drama, some top Republicans were refraining from publicly rallying around Mr. Scalise, instead allowing the resistance to him in their ranks to fester. Mr. Jordan had yet to make a full-throated endorsement of Mr. Scalise despite indicating his support. And Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the ousted former speaker who has an icy relationship with Mr. Scalise, said the Louisiana Republican had overestimated his backing and might be unable to recover.

“It’s possible; it’s a big hill, though,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters at the Capitol as he entered a meeting with Mr. Scalise. “He had told a lot of people he was going to be at 150. He wasn’t there.”

It was the latest remarkable turn in a saga that has been marked by whiplash, shifting alliances and petty grudges. The situation has highlighted major changes in the nature of the House Republican Conference, whose members once dutifully lined up in support of their chosen leaders but increasingly appear to be pursuing a strategy of every member for themselves.

The uncertainty has hobbled the House at a time of crises at home and abroad, with U.S. allies at war in Israel and Ukraine and a government shutdown looming next month if Congress cannot reach a spending agreement.

Some Republicans were already discussing the possibility of dumping Mr. Scalise and rallying around an alternative candidate who would be able to unite their ranks in a way that he has been unable to. Among the names being mentioned were Representatives Tom Cole of Oklahoma, the Rules Committee chairman, and Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, who was named the interim speaker after Mr. McCarthy’s removal.

Mr. McHenry indicated he was not whipping votes for any candidate, including himself, as he tried to stay as a neutral arbitrator of the process.

“I’m trying to serve as the facilitator for us to get a speaker elected,” he said.

Still, Mr. Scalise and his team were laboring to try to shore up his support, working the phones and taking one-on-one meetings with holdouts. A brief floor session was scheduled for noon, though no votes had been scheduled. Republicans were expected to meet privately among themselves immediately afterward.

The range of complaints against Mr. Scalise ran the gamut, crossing ideological and regional lines and reflecting the many competing factions among House Republicans.

Some detractors were simply loyal to Mr. Jordan or Mr. McCarthy. Some believed Mr. Scalise was not aligned enough with Mr. Trump’s agenda or the demands of the Freedom Caucus, though he is deeply conservative. One member countered that Mr. Scalise was too aligned with Mr. Trump and failed to respect the results of the 2020 election. Another, Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina, trashed Mr. Scalise on national television over a meeting he attended decades ago with white nationalists, for which he has apologized.

Still others, such as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, cited Mr. Scalise’s cancer diagnosis. And some complained he had not paid them enough attention.

Representative George Santos of New York, who is under federal indictment on fraud allegations, said on the social media site X that he had yet to hear from Mr. Scalise by Wednesday night. “So 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,” Mr. Santos wrote.

In private meetings, Mr. Scalise was offering a number of promises to try to win over holdouts, in a scene reminiscent of what Mr. McCarthy went through during his 15-round slog to be elected speaker in January.

Mr. Scalise discussed altering House rules with Representative Chip Roy of Texas, the policy chairman of the Freedom Caucus, who said he was “not happy” with the way the Louisiana Republican’s team shot down his ideas in a conference meeting. Mr. Roy also noted that Mr. Scalise had only a “thin” lead over Mr. Jordan, whom he defeated by only 14 votes.

Mr. Scalise was winning over some of his critics. He flipped Representative Anna Paulina Luna of Florida by promising to continue the impeachment inquiry into President Biden that Mr. McCarthy had ordered. Ms. Luna told reporters at the Capitol that she had told Mr. Scalise she would try to defund the investigation by Jack Smith, the special counsel, into Mr. Trump and issue a subpoena for the testimony of Hunter Biden, the president’s son.

“He’s going to allow me to aggressively do my job,” Ms. Luna said after the meeting. She added that Mr. Scalise was “definitely someone that the Biden administration should not be playing games with.”