“It shows a structural problem,” Michael Waltz, a third-term Floridia Republican, tells WIRED. “You have to, in a republic, be able to rule by majority vote, and when we have a structural problem that came out of January where we can’t, then I think that’s gotta be fixed.”
Scalise’s surrender seems to have dislodged something. Some Republicans say it’s time to call on the House parliamentarian—the chamber’s procedural brain trust—to see if there’s an obscure loophole they can use to bypass this latest Republican blockade of Republicans. “There’s suggestion of that, but I don’t see consensus around that,” Waltz says, even as he says tweaking internal party rules is different than overhauling House rules. “We’re gonna be addressing our rules.” For now, the majority of the GOP don’t dare tamper with House rules, in no small part because Trump’s base is enlivened, engaged, and digitally screaming at the party’s rank and file.
Thing is, all of this was inevitable. “We knew this. I felt this in November when we, sadly, won with such a slim majority,” Chuck Fleischmann, a seven-term Tennessean, tells WIRED. “You could feel the difficulties of that slim majority present at that time. It just came into fruition 10 months later.”
Inevitable sure; painful nonetheless. Scalise is affable, genuine, and beloved by many, especially as he currently battles cancer after surviving a mass shooting just six years ago.
“The mood is pensive. There was a little bit of surprise there,” Fleischmann says. “This is not going to be an easy process. We had an historic event last week—a first, the vacating of the chair—so moving forward in these uncharted waters, in these uncharted times, is going to be difficult with a very slim majority.”
Slim and divided. Moments after Scalise and his entourage of aides and suit-donning officers left the Capitol Thursday evening, his inglorious departure was already a distant memory to second-term Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota.
“I’m looking for my phone,” the flustered congresswoman fretted, rifling through the huge handbag she set on a bronze-rimmed trash can in the Capitol’s dingy basement. When asked if she was frustrated by how the day ended, with Scalise’s walk of shame before his political family and the press corps, Fischbach spoke up on behalf of the minority of the minority of the majority party, telling WIRED, “It’s more frustrating that I can’t find my phone.”
The frustration is palpable.