With Paul Ryan announcing he won't seek reelection to Congress this fall, political observers are all abuzz about who’ll replace him as the Republican leader of the U.S. House. If the Republicans retain control of the House in November, the top Republican will be speaker, the position Ryan currently holds; if a blue wave gives Democrats the majority, the highest-ranking Republican will be minority leader. Here’s a look at some of the names being floated. They’re uniformly anti-LGBT.
Steve Scalise: The congressman from Louisiana, who was seriously wounded in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice last year, is currently House majority whip, meaning he’s responsible for whipping up votes. Since joining Congress in 2009, he’s racked up a solid string of zeroes on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which measures lawmakers’ support for LGBT rights or lack thereof.
As a Louisiana state legislator before joining Congress, he was lead author of that state’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. When a federal judge upheld the amendment in 2014, Scalise went on Tony Perkins’s radio show and called the ruling “an important win for marriage.” (A police officer wounded while facing down the man who shot Scalise is in a same-sex marriage.)
Scalise voted against repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and against LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes legislation. In the 2015-2016 session of Congress, he was a cosponsor of the First Amendment Defense Act, which would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBT people or others who offend their religious beliefs. In the current session, a new version of the bill has been introduced in the Senate but not the House.
Scalise is a strong supporter of gun rights and an equally strong opponent of abortion rights. He was involved in a major controversy when it was revealed that as a state legislator, he’d once spoken to a white supremacist group with ties to David Duke. Scalise said he was seeking the group’s support for a tax bill, not endorsing its ideology. U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a black Louisiana Democrat and friend of Scalise’s, asserted that Scalise is not racist, helping to save him from political fallout.
Kevin McCarthy: Currently House majority leader, the congressman from Bakersfield, Calif., was in the running to replace John Boehner as speaker in 2015, but withdrew from consideration. Although he is solidly conservative — anti-LGBT, anti-abortion, pro-gun — some far-right members of his party apparently didn’t think he was conservative enough and supported Florida’s Daniel Webster instead; the speaker post ultimately went to Ryan. McCarthy also was hurt by his comments implying that the congressional investigation into the killing of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, was politically motivated (to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign).
McCarthy, who joined Congress in 2007, has an unbroken record of zeroes on the HRC Scorecard. While usually circumspect in discussing LGBT issues, he has voiced opposition to marriage equality and said hate-crimes law creates “the perception of unequal punishment for committing the same crime.”
Scalise and McCarthy are the leading candidates to replace Ryan right now, but there are some outliers. One who’s been mentioned is North Carolina’s Mark Meadows, chair of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, who as expected has a poor record on LGBT issues. He said today he’s given “zero consideration” to running for speaker, adding that “leadership positions have never been on my bucket list," according to Politico. Of course, he could change his mind tomorrow.