Allies of Ohio congressman Jim Jordan are trying to sabotage House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s bid to become House speaker by claiming the Louisiana representative has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at a D.C. steak restaurant, according to reports.
Eric Cortellessa, a politics reporter for Time, said supporters of Jordan have been sharing Federal Election Commission [FEC] documents around Washington D.C. showing that Scalise has spent more than $500,000 through his congressional campaign account at Capital Grille since 2011.
“They are saying it reveals Scalise to be a creature of the ‘Washington swamp’ and establishment—another sign that Republicans are not ready to corral around a single candidate. Some are preparing for a lengthy and bitter fight,” Cortellessa posted on X, formerly Twitter.
The claim that Scalise has spent vast sums of money at the steak restaurant emerged after the Louisiana congressman beat Jordan to become the Republican nomination to replace Kevin McCarthy as House speaker following his historic ousting in a 113-99 secret ballot at the GOP Conference.
Due to the GOP’s narrow 221-212 majority in the House of Representatives, Scalise will eventually need the support of almost all Republican lawmakers in the lower chamber to achieve the 217 votes needed in a full House ballot to get elected speaker. There is virtually no chance he will get any votes from the Democrats.
Scalise’s office has been contacted for comment via email.
There are currently around a dozen House Republicans who have said they will still be supporting Jordan for the House speaker role, or who have not yet been convinced to back Scalise.
The continuing support for Jordan, who has been endorsed for House speaker by former president Donald Trump, sets up another potential drawn out voting process before any Republican can be elected to the role.
In January, McCarthy needed 15 rounds of voting before he was finally elected, as a number of hardline and MAGA Republicans, including Florida’s Matt Gaetz, refused to vote for him. The California Republican only got enough votes after six Republicans withheld their ballot, therefore lowering the threshold to 216.
One of the concessions McCarthy made to appease some members of his party and to back his reelection bid was changing Congress rules so that just one member could introduce a motion to vacate and force a vote on removing the speaker. McCarthy was eventually ousted in a 216-210 House vote in an October 3 vote after Gaetz introduced such a motion.
Bill Palmer, who writes the left-wing political blog Palmer Report, described how infighting in the GOP looks set to continue for the foreseeable future amid claims of factions attempting to smear Scalise over his steak spending.
“This is the kind of scandal that—if it gets any traction—won’t just hurt Scalise’s bid for Speaker, it could also hurt him with his own constituents and even potentially with campaign finance regulators,” Palmer wrote.
“Of course this new Scalise scandal might not go anywhere, given that the Republican House has too many overlapping and cascading scandals for them all to fit into the news headlines. But the mere fact that certain House Republicans are trying to make this a scandal, and trying to take Scalise’s legs out, simply in the hope of allowing someone else to become Speaker, shows what a chaotic clown show this is,” Palmer added.
In a statement after he won the GOP nomination, Scalise thanked Republicans for their support, adding: “Obviously we still have work to do. We’re going to have to go upstairs on the House Floor and resolve this, and get the House opened again.”
Correction 10/12/23, 11:21 a.m. ET: Corrects to House Majority Leader