Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 14, 2023. | Francis Chung/POLITICO
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said on Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with “a very treatable” blood cancer and is currently undergoing treatment.
“After a few days of not feeling like myself this past week, I had some blood work done. The results uncovered some irregularities and after undergoing additional tests, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a very treatable blood cancer,” Scalise (R-La.) said in a statement.
Scalise added that the cancer was detected early and he expects the treatment will continue “for the next several months,” but that he intends to return to Washington, D.C. The House is scheduled to return on Sept. 12 after being out of town since late July.
“I expect to work through this period and intend to return to Washington, continuing my work as Majority Leader and serving the people of Louisiana’s First Congressional District,” Scalise said.
House Republicans immediately offered an outpouring of support for their No. 2. Speaker Kevin McCarthy said in a statement that he spoke with Scalise on Tuesday and that the Louisianian was in “good spirits.”
“Steve is a dear friend, and anyone who knows him knows he’s a faith-filled fighter who can overcome any obstacle that stands in his way. I spoke with him today and he’s in good spirits, as nothing — not a gunshot and certainly not cancer — will stop him from accomplishing what he sets his mind to,” McCarthy said, referring to a 2017 shooting at a baseball field where Scalise was shot in the hip.
The announcement from Scalise — who was elected as majority leader when Republicans flipped the House and previously served as GOP whip — comes right before Congress’ upcoming sprint to avoid a government shutdown. House Republicans’ thin majority has already struggled to pass some spending bills as a Sept. 30 funding deadline rapidly approaches.
The House has only passed one of its 12 government funding bills, though Republicans are signaling that they could bring up a massive defense spending bill in mid-September. Leaders from across the conference are also discussing if the chamber can move a homeland security funding bill, in a bid to address border and immigration policy demands from their right flank.
Scalise recently told POLITICO that Republicans should keep pushing for border changes and “obviously in the appropriations process, in the Homeland Security bill, is one place we would do that.”
Congressional leaders have indicated they’ll need to pass a temporary funding patch, known as a continuing resolution or a CR, if they are going to avoid a shutdown — an idea House conservatives have publicly resisted.
McCarthy previously told Republicans that they would need a continuing resolution, possibly into December, to buy more time to negotiate with Senate Democrats and the White House. To pass such a stopgap funding bill, McCarthy would first need to sell nearly his entire conference on a weeks-long bill or lean on help from Democrats.
Beyond government spending, Congress has a laundry list of bills on its plate for the back half of the year: a mammoth defense policy bill; reauthorization of the farm bill, which includes key agriculture and nutrition programs; the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization and an end-of-year surveillance fight.
Scalise has also been leading a House GOP task force, which includes committee chairs and some members of the conference’s right flank, aimed at cutting spending.
A spokesperson for the Louisiana Republican told POLITICO that the group is looking at annual reauthorizations, such as the annual defense policy bill and the FAA legislation, as well as “identifying unauthorized programs that can be cut or eliminated in the appropriations process.”