House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, one of two front-runners to replace retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Thursday that he won’t seek the position if Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy runs for it.
“I mean, I’ve never run against Kevin and wouldn’t run against Kevin,” the Louisiana Republican told Fox News, adding, “and he and I are good friends.”
Scalise brushed aside reports that he’s preparing a run for the job following Ryan’s surprise retirement announcement Wednesday.
“I’ve got a job right now as the House majority whip and there’s a lot more we need to do,” Scalise said.
Scalise, who rose to national prominence while undergoing a dramatic recovery after being shot by a gunman during a morning softball practice last year, expressed interest in the speakership in an interview with Politico last month, saying he “wouldn’t rule it out,” and has “shown interest in the past at moving up.”
Since then, Scalise has deflected questions about his interest in the job and turned his attention to the need for Republicans to hold on to control of the House. Instead, Scalise warned, “We need to stay focused on getting our job done and keeping the majority, because if we lose focus of that, Nancy Pelosi will be speaker, and I think we know how devastating that would be for our country.”
Scalise also took the chance to push back against supporters touting him as a more conservative candidate for Speaker, saying, “Well look, I don’t make up titles, and you know, I’ve got a long record as a conservative who’s fought to advance a more conservative agenda. Kevin’s a conservative, too.”
A leadership source told CNN on Thursday that that Scalise’s intention is “to be ready” in the case that McCarthy isn’t. McCarthy had previously run for speaker in 2015 to replace the retiring John Boehner, before abruptly withdrawing from the race.