Scalise ran claiming to be a 'conservative maverick,' but just votes like a Republican


The new House majority leader broke campaign promises and has authored just one minor law.

Days after winning a narrow majority in the November midterm elections, House Republicans voted to make current Minority Whip Steve Scalise their majority leader for the new congressional term that begins in January. Though the Louisiana Republican was originally elected to Congress on a promise to be a "maverick," he has almost always voted the party line over his seven-plus terms.

After working as a systems engineer and serving for more than a decade in Louisiana's state Legislature, Scalise won a May 2008 House special election. His campaign website for that race, captured in the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, presented him as a different kind of conservative.

"As a state legislator, Steve Scalise has always been a conservative maverick. He has stood by his principles to protect our families," it claimed. "There is a new era of conservative reform sweeping across the state. Steve Scalise has led the fight for this reform movement. … Now, Steve Scalise is ready to restore conservative values to Congress."

"He's been called a conservative maverick," his candidate biography asserted. "He has stood by his principles to protect our families. Steve Scalise has stood for lower taxes, eliminating wasteful spending, reforming our political system, and punishing the politically corrupt."

Scalise's record has been anything but maverick. He voted for Republican President Donald Trump's positions more than 98% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight, and about 87% of his votes cast were in opposition to Democratic President Joe Biden's agenda.

Some of the issues on which Scalise campaigned were typical right-wing GOP priorities, such as his stalwart opposition to LGBTQ rights, to the right to choose an abortion, and to any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He has made good on those pledges: He earned 0% ratings from Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the Human Rights Campaign, and he voted against even allowing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as kids.

But Scalise also ran promising a commitment to ethics, earmark reform, fiscal responsibility, and veterans' health — promises he has not kept.

"Steve Scalise has been called the best example of what it means to be an honest public servant," his campaign website claimed, promising to crack down on corrupt politicians and ethics reforms.

"Current federal law allows federal politicians and candidates to accept cash contributions. Scalise has pledged never to accept a cash contribution, and will file legislation to completely ban cash contributions at the federal level," the site promised. "Earmark spending is out of control in Congress and has helped lead to a bloated federal budget. As your Congressman, Scalise will file legislation to require full disclosure and comprehensive reform of the earmark process."

A review by the American Independent Foundation of the 75 bills and resolutions he has filed since taking office does not reveal any that actually proposed to accomplish any of his priorities.

A Scalise spokesperson did not immediately reply to a request for comment for this story.

During Scalise's tenure as a member of the GOP leadership, several House Republicans were allowed to continue serving despite ethical scandals, and he continued to help bankroll them. He also voted against all charges during Trump's impeachments for alleged obstruction of Congress, abuse of power, and incitement of an insurrection.

Though he promised to "restore fiscal discipline in Washington and promote a tax policy that is fair to our families and businesses," Scalise championed the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is projected to increase the nation's debt by up to $2 trillion over seven years and which slashed taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals — while raising them for about 10 million Americans.

Though he vowed "to force the Veterans Administration to treat our service men and women with the same honor with which they served our country," he was one of just 88 representatives — all Republicans — to vote against the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act in July, which guarantees better medical care for veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals during their service.

Scalise has quickly risen through the ranks of his party's leadership, but his legislative record is rather scant. It took 13 years in Congress for just one of his 75 sponsored bills and resolutions to become law. President Joe Biden signed Scalise's 2021 Secure Equipment Act changing the Federal Communications Commission's rules to prohibit the authorization of "radio frequency devices that pose a national security risk."

Upon winning the majority leader position on Nov. 15, Scalise promised, "We're going to make Congress work again."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.