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Vol. 2 No. 88: Scalise’s 20 Hour Speakership

 Member Newsletter
October 12, 2023 3:51 p.m.

With the speakership seemingly within his grasp just yesterday afternoon, Steve Scalise’s moment may already have passed. A growing number of House Republicans came out last night and this morning saying they won’t support him on the House floor. For the moment, at least, his bid for the speakership appears to be at a standstill. More on that below.

We also have another data point in the emerging story of warnings or missed warnings leading up to the catastrophic terrorist attack in southern Israel over the weekend. A paywalled story in the Israeli daily Haaretz reports that army and intelligence officials in southern Israel picked up chatter about some kind of attack on Friday evening. They reviewed the information and decided it wasn’t clear enough to raise an alert. By the next morning the attack was underway.

Intelligence agencies not infrequently see rushes of this kind of “chatter” just before an attack. Hindsight is always 20/20. It’s not clear whether this is just that, par for the course, or whether these new reports will combine with those earlier reports of missed warnings from Egypt or other sources. A picture is coming into view but it’s too incomplete, as of yet, to say what it means. We will be keeping a close eye on this dimension of the story.

For now, let’s talk House speakership follies …

Scalise’s 20 hour Speakership

Originally Published: October 12, 2023 1:27 p.m.

It would appear that Steve Scalise is recapitulating Kevin McCarthy’s nine-month out-of-control rollercoaster ride of a speakership in 24 hours. After a brief shining couple hours yesterday afternoon when it seemed like his speakership might actually become a thing, overnight we’ve seen a steady stream of House Republicans announcing either that they will not vote for Scalise or are at least not ready to vote for Scalise. This morning, deposed Speaker Kevin McCarthy stepped forward to express “concern” over his erstwhile frenemy-sorta ally’s travails. And by “concern” I mean, barely concealed gloating.

This morning I saw one of the sharpest online Republicans (he sees the whole thing so clearly how is he still a Republican?) describing the new dissenters trying to get to no. I had a similar sense of it as I watched it unfold. There was a brief moment when it seemed like Scalise might have it all wrapped up, as improbable as that seems for the players involved. But it wasn’t that there wasn’t opposition. It was that there was a brief period when the various people who didn’t want the party to stop, needed to center themselves and figure out a reason why they were going to vote against him. If you’re Nancy Mace you’re thinking, “It’s only 12:30! This kegger’s got at least 3 hours to go if I have anything to say about it…”

Mace, rather improbably, claimed that she voted against McCarthy because he didn’t showcase some 12 dimensional chess ideas for post-Roe legislation that she suggested to McCarthy. Now she claims that she can’t, in good conscience, vote for Scalise over his past associations with David Duke. My first thought is, don’t crib your reasons from the TPM back-catalog, Nancy. But really, who are we kidding here?

At least Matt Gaetz pretty openly says, “Hey, I’m a recalcitrant, preening asshole and I’m shutting this down.” Points for candor.

Perhaps this will get settled out somehow over the next 48 hours. In our weekly podcast yesterday, Kate Riga and I both predicted there would be a new Speaker by the time we record our next episode on Wednesday. But I’m starting to wonder if this is a greater and more consequential level of breakdown and dysfunction than we’ve understood.

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