Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) secured House Republicans’ nomination Wednesday for House speaker, bringing him one step closer to leading the House of Representatives, after more than 30 years in politics, which has seen him steadily rise in Republican ranks, survive a mass shooting and be compared to white supremacist David Duke.
Scalise, who has served as House majority leader since January following a more than eight-year stint as Republican House whip, announced he was running for speaker last week following the ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and became the party’s formal nominee for the role Wednesday.
The congressman has represented Louisiana’s 1st congressional district—which includes eight parishes that surround New Orleans and a small sliver of the city itself—since 2008, and has steadily worked his way up in Republican leadership since then.
He gained national name recognition in 2017 when he was among four people shot during a congressional baseball practice outside Washington, D.C.; Scalise was seriously wounded, but survived and still walks with a cane due to the injuries he suffered.
Despite his experience with gun violence, Scalise has been an ardent supporter of Second Amendment rights, earning the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, and saying that the attack that nearly took his life reinforced his position on gun rights as he “was saved by people who had guns.”
Scalise has a history of being a staunch conservative who supports cutting government spending and implementing strict immigration policies, and has long been a supporter of former President Donald Trump, though he is generally not considered a hard-right firebrand like more recent prominent Republican additions to the House, such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.).
Scalise was among the Republicans who objected to the Electoral College results when Congress met to certify President Joe Biden’s win on January 6, 2021.
Scalise once reportedly compared himself to David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan best known for his 1991 run for Louisiana governor as a Republican. About two years ago, a Louisiana politics blogger said Scalise attended a 2002 white supremacist conference organized by a group founded by Duke. Scalise responded by saying he attended the event in an attempt to get “support for legislation that focused on cutting wasteful state spending, eliminating government corruption and stopping tax hikes,” adding that he “wholeheartedly condemn[ed]” the views of the group. Scalise also called his attendance a “mistake I regret” as he’s “emphatically oppose[d] to divisive racial and religious views that groups like these hold.” Duke later told the Washington Post Scalise would communicate with his political advisor often, and that’s why Scalise attended the event, adding that the advisor and Scalise were “friendly.” Scalise’s attempt to distance himself from Duke proved less successful after a New York Times piece published days after Duke’s comment quoted longtime Louisiana politics reporter Stephanie Grace recalling an interview with Scalise where the congressman said “he was like David Duke without the baggage,” meaning he shared Duke’s “policy ideas” but “didn’t have the same feelings about certain people.”
Scalise defeated Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on Wednesday in a 113-99 conference vote to get the nomination to become the next House Speaker, multiple outlets reported. Scalise was thrust back into the national spotlight earlier this month, after McCarthy was removed from the speakership, marking the first time in U.S. history a speaker was fired.
Scalise was born and raised in Louisiana. He attended the Catholic Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie before going to LSU, where he majored in computer science and was a member of the Acacia fraternity. Scalise then worked as a software engineer and as a marketing executive at a technology company, according to Ballotpedia. Scalise was first elected to the Louisiana legislature in 1996 from a Metairie-based district, where he served until 2008, when he was elected to Congress. He is married and has two children. Scalise is a passionate LSU fan, often being spotted at the university’s football games.
Scalise has helped a handful of former aides get elected to public office in recent years. Charles Henry, a former chief of staff for the congressman, was elected to a state House seat with Scalise’s help. And Matt Jewell, a former district director, was elected to be St. Charles Parish president.
What To Watch For
After winning the GOP conference vote, Scalise will need to secure a majority of votes in the House. While it was initially suggested the vote on the next speaker of the House could happen Wednesday, it ultimately did not. A vote on the new speaker has not been scheduled.
What We Don’t Know
It’s unclear if Scalise has the votes needed to win in a formal election. The process could be grueling: McCarthy endured 15 rounds of voting in January—the most drawn-out speaker election in modern history—before winning the post, and was ultimately voted out of the job after eight hard-right Republicans and all Democrats revolted against him last week. Several Republicans have said they will still support either Jordan or others when a vote begins on the House floor.