House Republicans agreed Wednesday to nominate Steve Scalise, who once reportedly described himself as “David Duke without the baggage,” for speaker.
Eight Republicans voted last week to vacate the speaker and oust Kevin McCarthy, plunging the House into chaos. The chamber is set to vote later Wednesday on a new speaker, but the GOP has struggled to get its act together.
But it won’t be an easy road for Scalise. He was up against Jim Jordan for the Republican speaker nomination, and he may still get some pushback from lawmakers loyal to Jordan. Representative Max Miller told reporters that he’ll still vote for Jordan on the floor, even if Scalise gets the caucus nomination, a move others may follow. Representative Ken Buck has said he’ll vote for neither candidate, all but guaranteeing to draw out the process.
A Scalise victory means that the farthest-right wing of the Republican Party would be in complete control. Scalise has refused to say outright that the 2020 election was legitimate, instead remaining loyal to Donald Trump.
But even long before that, Scalise had embraced the extremist movement. At the start of his congressional career, Scalise reportedly described himself as being like Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, but “without the baggage.”
Scalise also attended a white supremacist conference that Duke organized in 2002. Scalise later described attending the conference as “a mistake.”
But Duke said Scalise was invited because he would “communicate a lot” and was “friendly” with Kenny Knight, Duke’s political adviser.