The Republican majority in the House of Representatives will fall to one seat after Jan. 21 due to the medical absence of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise from the chamber.
Scalise, who was diagnosed with blood cancer on Aug. 29, will be absent from the House upon its reconvening on Jan. 9 to receive a stem cell transplant, according to a statement released by his office. Once Republican Rep. Bill Johnson of Ohio, who has resigned, vacates his office on Jan. 21, House Republicans will only have 218 members present and voting in a then-432 member chamber, where the majority to pass measures will be 217, giving them a majority of one seat.
“[Leader Scalise] is currently undergoing the transplant process, marking a significant milestone in his battle against cancer. Once the procedure is completed, he will be recovering under the supervision of his medical team and will work remotely until returning to Washington next month,” wrote his office in their statement. Scalise cannot vote remotely or by proxy as members are required to be present in the House to cast their votes, a policy that was reinstituted by House Republicans at the outset of the 118th Congress after Democrats had permitted proxy voting during their majorities in the 116th and 117th Congresses.
Amid a slim majority of four seats, the House Republican Conference’s ideological divisions have often inhibited legislative action during the 118th Congress due to defections from some Republicans on key votes. These included both the election and ousting of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as well as votes on several appropriations bills, which were withdrawn from the House floor in November due to a lack of support.
McCarthy resigned from the House and vacated his seat on Dec. 31, contributing to the decline in the majority, while Republican Rep. George Santos of New York was expelled by the House on Dec. 1. A special election in New York’s Third Congressional District, which Santos represented, will be held on Feb. 13, with the Democratic candidate — former Rep. Tom Suozzi of New York, Santos’ predecessor — narrowly leading in opinion polls, within the margin of error.
Both houses of Congress must pass several appropriations bills by Jan. 19 to avoid a government shutdown and the remainder by Feb. 2 to avoid a full shutdown. House Democrats have broadly opposed all seven bills passed by the House, thus far, which have not been passed by the Senate.
The exact date of Scalise’s return is unclear. House Speaker Mike Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Arjun Singh on January 5, 2024