Scalise Emerges As Possible McCarthy Replacement In Speaker Race

Time is quickly running out for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to secure the 218 votes needed to clinch the speakership in the upcoming legislative session.

In just over a week, Republicans in a narrowly divided chamber will vote on their next speaker, and McCarthy continues to face significant pushback from a handful of conservatives in his own party. As those naysayers threaten to derail his leadership bid, one other name is attracting attention as a possible alternative.

A number of GOP insiders are reportedly suggesting that Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) could be the ideal candidate to bring the party’s disparate factions together behind him. Of course, he has already voiced his support for McCarthy and a spokesperson said he does not plan to throw his hat in the ring.

If the current GOP leader is unsuccessful in uniting enough House Republicans to support him, though, even one McCarthy aide acknowledged that Scalise might change his mind and step forward as a replacement.

Another party source predicted that “Scalise gets it easily” if McCarthy falls short in the Jan. 3 vote.

With just 222 Republicans serving in the upcoming session, McCarthy can only afford to lose the support of four lawmakers in his party — and there are currently five House Freedom Caucus members who have reiterated their intention to vote against him.

“He doesn’t have the votes right now,” one Republican insider said. “That’s for sure.”

In a statement to the Washington Times, however, another source explained why Scalise might fare better despite his close association with McCarthy.

“I think people just trust Steve more, and they don’t always trust Kevin,” the individual said. “Scalise is more conservative on the kind of stuff that matters to some people.”

Although Scalise has served as either majority whip or minority whip since 2014 and clearly has his eye on an even more prominent leadership position in Congress, he made it clear earlier this year that he would not be McCarthy’s rival.

“Obviously, he’s had a strong interest in becoming speaker, and he’s going to get there,” the Louisiana Republican said. “But I’ve been clear, too. I’m not talking about what position I’m going to run for tomorrow. I’m working on the job I’ve got to do today.”

The only Republican who has confirmed a bid to challenge McCarthy next week is Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), who launched a failed long-shot campaign to become the GOP nominee for speaker last month. He is among the five “Never Kevin” lawmakers who have joined forces to stymie McCarthy’s plan.