Oct 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

GOP lawmakers defend Steve Scalise's health amid speaker bid

Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

Multiple GOP lawmakers are defending House Majority Leader Steve Scalise's (R-La.) capacity to serve as speaker while undergoing chemotherapy, highlighting that his doctors have cleared him to run.

Why it matters: Scalise — who is undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma — has been responding to treatment "phenomenally well," with his medical team reducing the months of chemo he has to undergo as a result, according to two sources familiar.

  • Scalise has long been viewed as the likely successor to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), but some members are concerned about his recent diagnosis.

What they're saying: "No one loves Steve Scalise more than Jennifer, his wife, and Jennifer says as a family they decided to run for Speaker," said Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) said. "That tells me all I need to know about Steve's health."

  • "Steve's word is good. I trust him when he says that he is feeling good, has consulted with his doctors, and is up to the job," said Rep. Ashley Hinson.
  • "We know what a fighter he is," said Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

The other side: Despite his assurances, some within the conference have voiced that they see it as a factor in the race.

  • "I was honest with Scalise. His health is an issue. I don't want somebody that's going to deteriorate on the job. This is a tough job," Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told reporters on Thursday.
  • "I like Steve Scalise. He's a friend. He's someone that I support. But cancer is very serious," said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

The big picture: Both Scalise and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) are struggling to to get the 217 votes needed to secure the gavel, with both candidates slated to make their pitch to the conference on Tuesday evening.

  • The conference is expected to hold an internal vote on Wednesday.
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