Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana dropped out of the running for speaker on Thursday, just as he was about to do so. This happened because conservative Republicans wouldn’t support their party’s candidate, leaving the House without a leader and the G.O.P. in chaos.
After coming in second place in a secret ballot vote held behind closed doors on Wednesday, Mr. Scalise, the No. 2 leader of the House Republicans, was well behind the 217 votes he needed to be elected on the House floor. Many people who backed his opponent, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a right-wing Republican backed by former President Donald J. Trump, refused to switch their support.
There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to the fighting within the G.O.P., which has paralyzed one chamber of Congress at a time of problems at home and abroad. Mr. Scalise said he would step down in the hopes that someone else could bring the divided party together.
“I told my coworkers just now that I’m taking down my name as a candidate for speaker-designee,” Mr. Scalise said. “Our conference is still not where it needs to be. Our conference is still not set up, so it’s not there yet. There are still some people with their own plans.
Republicans were back to square one after his sudden departure. They still didn’t agree on who should lead them and were blaming each other for the chaos they were in. They planned to meet on Friday morning to talk about what to do next. Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska said, “Steve won fairly, but some people refused to vote for him.” He also said, “If you reward bad behavior, you’ll get more of it.”
Mr. Scalise was removed from office after a very eventful few days on Capitol Hill that made it clear how divided Republicans are. In the internal party race, Mr. Scalise beat Mr. Jordan by only 14 votes. But instead of getting more support from his small group of supporters, Mr. Scalise started losing supporters almost right away, as lawmakers from different groups made it public that they were not going to join him.
Then, on Thursday, Mr. Trump spoke out against Mr. Scalise, saying that the Louisianan wasn’t fit to be speaker because he has blood cancer. “Steve is a man in serious trouble because he has cancer,” Mr. Trump said on Fox News Radio. “I just don’t know how you can do the job when you have such a serious sickness.”
Other top Republicans in the House didn’t publicly support Mr. Scalise, which let the opposition grow. Even though Mr. Jordan said he supported Mr. Scalise, he never gave him a full-throated vote of support. And Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, who was fired as speaker and doesn’t get along with Mr. Scalise, said that the Louisiana Republican had overestimated his support and might not be able to get it back.
After Mr. Scalise dropped out, Mr. Jordan’s supporters quickly backed him as the next best candidate, and he was set to run for speaker on Friday. He is likely to face opposition from the party’s more moderate members, though. Ohio Rep. Jim Banks, who supports Mr. Jordan, said, “I hope now he’s the obvious choice.” “Steve Scalise beat him by a very small margin.”
Representative Mike Garcia of California, on the other hand, said that some people at the conference would find it hard to support the Ohioan because of how Mr. Jordan’s supporters behaved after he lost.
A lot of people have different opinions on whether or not we should reward the tyranny of the minority in this case, Mr. Garcia said. “The problem is, I think there are enough people who would look at what has happened over the last 40 hours and not support him; we’re going to have the same problem with Jordan that we did with Scalise.”
Mr. McCarthy also didn’t rule out a return to the speakership. He said he would “let the conference decide” if to put him back in the position he lost last week. There was also talk about Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina as a possible candidate. He was named interim speaker after Mr. McCarthy was fired. Some members thought the fight might last for weeks, so they talked about how they could give Mr. McHenry, whose main job is to hold elections for a speaker, more power to run the chamber’s business until the fight was over.
The recent departure of Mr. Scalise was the latest interesting turn in a story that has been full of twists, turns, and small grudges. The situation has shown that the House Republican conference has changed a lot. Members used to support their leaders without question, but now it looks like they are more interested in getting along with each other.
There were a lot of different kinds of complaints against Mr. Scalise. They were based on different ideas, and different regions, and showed how divided House Republicans are. But some were just small and personal.
The next few days are important for some people to really look in the mirror and decide: Are we going to get back on track, or are they going to try to get their own way?” What Mr. Scalise said. “You cannot do both.”
Some of Mr. Scalise’s supporters were still surprised when he told them he was stepping down in a closed-door meeting, even though it was clear that the votes on Thursday had gone against him. A few of them openly cried.