Republicans push for Scalise, creature of Big Oil, as Speaker
Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana has been nominated by his party for the position of Speaker. Scalise once described himself as David Duke (Ku KLux Klan leader) without the baggage. | Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

WASHINGTON—The chaos continued on Capitol Hill this week as the House’s ruling Republicans tried to elect a Speaker—again. And they could elect Louisianan Steve Scalise, one of Big Oil’s boys on Capitol Hill.

Campaign finance records show that starting with his first congressional campaign in  2010, Scalise garnered $549,500 in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests, including $379,676 in the 2021-22 election cycle alone. That understates the case.

As the second biggest fundraiser for other Republicans, Scalise traverses the country “bundling” contributions from his corporate donors, including the energy interests, for his colleagues. It’s called inside influence.

Scalise in particular caters to the corporate class, which is perfectly happy to see the government grind to a halt. That means it can’t regulate their excesses or chase their crooks, many in Louisiana.

Oil and natural gas are the big industries in Scalise’s southern Louisiana congressional district—indeed in the whole state., which traces amounts and sources of campaign and lobbying spending, reports that starting in 2010, the fossil fuel industry was his #4 campaign contributor. Healthcare interests are first.

But regardless of who wins the job—Scalise defeated ultraMAGA Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, in an internal Republican conference vote, 113-99—expect virtually nothing positive to come out of it.

That’s because Scalise and Jordan, who became infamous as Donald Trump’s histrionic uber-defender during Judiciary Committee impeachment hearings, both hew to the “no compromise with your enemies,” the Democrats. On anything. And that’s the MAGAites’ stand.

Kill the opposition if they could

They’d kill the opposition, literally, if they could. Instead, the MAGAites settle for cuts in social programs, no compromises to keep the country running, and scheming at measures to deprive people of their voting rights, among other right-wing priorities

How right-wing are they? Scalise, a career politician, once told a Louisiana reporter that he’s “David Duke without the baggage.” Duke was the national Ku Klux Klan leader the state Republicans nominated for governor in 1991.

Highway billboards that year in Louisiana read “Elect the crook, not the Klansman.” The crook was Democrat Edwin Edwards, who later served a jail term for racketeering while in the governor’s office after beating Duke.

Scalise, for example, told the Republicans in their closed-door caucus that he would continue the impeachment investigation against Democratic President Joe Biden, a probe proceeding without any evidence. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the Speaker whom the ultra-MAGAites ousted, tried to head them off by letting Jordan’s House Judiciary Committee begin hearings.

It didn’t work, because neither the MAGAites nor the Democratic minority trusted McCarthy.

More importantly, both Scalise and Jordan show no willingness to get on with the actual business of trying to govern. The weak McCarthy at least agreed to that, twice, in a budget deal with Biden to prevent default and in accepting the Senate-passed bill to keep the government going until Nov. 17. He lost his job as a result.

This time, another government shutdown, and Biden’s demands for military aid to  Ukraine and to Israel loom over the balloting. The GOP is split on Ukraine aid, but both parties—and both GOP contenders—are competing to see who can be more pro-Israel after war with Hamas broke out.

Instead, both contenders keep pushing hot-button social issues—such as outlawing abortions nationwide and banning diversity and inclusion training for workers, particularly in the military, where people of color are overrepresented. They also both treat workers, especially federal workers, as piñatas.

Whether all this will be enough to win Scalise the Speaker’s chair—he needs 217 of the 222 House Republicans to win in the current 433-member House—is up for grabs. Jordan supporters were grumbling over his loss and may continue to vote for him, not Scalise, when and if the votes begin on the House floor.

Another firebrand, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said she was concerned about Scalise’s recent blood cancer diagnosis. His doctors say it’s in remission. Other Scalise foes seek a candidate not part of the “status quo.”

Greene said she is concerned about Scalise’s health following his blood cancer diagnosis. Scalise has said his doctors cleared him to seek the position. She and six others told The Hill they plan to vote for Jordan when the full House starts balloting—enough to deny Scalise the job, since all 212 Democrats will vote for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.