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Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson Parish, speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference at the Pontchartrain Convention & Civic Center in Kenner , La. Friday, Jan. 18, 2019. The two-day event opened Friday.

WASHINGTON — Congressman Steve Scalise is reluctantly settling into his role in the minority party — smaller office, fewer opportunities to set the agenda, more members he views as “radical liberals” pushing proposals that wouldn't have gained traction if the GOP still controlled the House. 

The Jefferson Parish Republican had ascended to become one of the chamber's most powerful figures when the GOP was in control. He's had five months in the minority, after Democrats flipped 41 seats and seized control of the chamber.

Scalise, 53, is itching to move back upstairs to the majority leadership suite and describes his situation as a temporary stint that can be resolved in the 2020 election cycle, if Republicans work hard enough to elect more conservative members.

"It's only a year and a half," Scalise said, sitting in the office he now occupies on the Capitol's first floor, joking that the space isn't as impressive as the office he had just a few short months ago.

The move to the Capitol's lower level, in a more tucked away corner, illustrates the new role that Scalise holds under Democrat control — one that's smaller and not as showy.

Scalise moved into the majority whip’s office on the second floor near the House Speaker’s formal office in 2014 after ascending to the No. 3 position in the chamber’s GOP leadership ranks.

The spacious suite just off Statuary Hall came with a balcony and views of the national mall and Washington Monument. Nicknaming the main space the “Lincoln Room” in honor of President Abraham Lincoln’s term as a House member, Scalise decorated the room with portraits and sculptures of the nation's 16th president. He often told visitors he could imagine Lincoln sitting by the fireplace.

Just days before Scalise moved out, the House moved to permanently rename the space the “Lincoln Room." It was formally unveiled under the official moniker this month, with its new Democrat denizen, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, of South Carolina. 

The new office brings with it some trivia of its own that history-buff Scalise is quick to point out. It once belonged to New Orleans Congressman Hale Boggs when Boggs was the majority leader in the 1970s and the space was part of the majority suite.

Boggs served nearly three decades in the U.S. House up through his presumed death in an airplane crash in Alaska in 1972. Massachusetts Congressman Tip O’Neill then moved into the office, before going on to serve as House speaker for five complete consecutive Congresses and becoming the third longest-serving speaker in history.

The connections don’t end there. In the hallway outside of the whip’s meeting room is a painting depicting the Louisiana Purchase.

Scalise, who has made no secret of his own designs on eventually moving up the GOP ranks in the House, stresses these details so visitors know the history of his office and all its flourishes — just as he did in the bigger space upstairs.

Inside his office, he has already started making some renovations, and old carpet was removed to expose the detailed marble flooring and its mosaic designs.

That's the easy part of all of this to adjust to.

“It’s different in a lot of ways,” Scalise said of his new role. "Not being able to control the agenda."

It's changed the tactics GOP leaders are now using to drive conversations about priorities, he said.

“There are limited tools that the minority has,” Scalise said. “We’ve been making good use out of them.”

One tool that Scalise and other House Republicans appear eager to deploy is the discharge petition, a rarely-successful procedure that allows members to bring a bill to the floor, sidestepping House leaders, if they can get a majority of the chamber (218) to sign on. For the 197-member Republican minority to achieve that, 21 Democrats would have to join.

Because the discharge petition signatures are made public, the tactic also offers a chance for representatives to publicly take a position on bills that won’t come up for a vote.

The last successful discharge petition was a bipartisan reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank in 2015. Only three others out of hundreds of attempts have eventually become law since 1931, according to a Congressional Research Service tally.

Two attempts so far this year have not gained enough signatures to move forward. But Scalise set a record for the number of signatures collected on the first day with 193 members supporting an effort to bring an anti-abortion bill to a vote. It’s now at 199 signatures.

Dubbed the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” the legislation would create penalties for abortion providers who don’t extend medical care to infants born after botched abortions. Such cases are rare, and Democrats have argued that existing homicide laws, a “born-alive” law enacted in 2002 and a “partial-birth abortion” ban adopted in 2003 already would apply to such cases.

But Republicans, and President Donald Trump, in particular, have become vocal on the topic after a secret recording of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat and doctor, emerged in which he discussed cases when comfort care would be provided after a failed abortion.

“People were shocked and disgusted by it all across the country,” Scalise said. “I think we need to have a vote on the House floor."

For the second discharge petition, Republicans again are trying to force Democrats on the record on a hot-button issue: The proposed Green New Deal resolution backed by a more liberal wing of the Democrats.

“What are they afraid of?” Scalise said of the majority refusing to take up a bill sponsored by members of its party. “Everybody ought to take a position.”

Scalise has publicly tangled with freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who this year became the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress, over the proposal.

“You’re the GOP Minority Whip. How do you not know how marginal tax rates work?,” Cortez tweeted after Scalise questioned taxes that would pay for the energy overhaul. “Oh that’s right, almost forgot: GOP works for the corporate CEOs showering themselves in multi-million bonuses; not the actual working people whose wages (and) healthcare they’re ripping off for profit.”

The longest-serving member of Louisiana's current congressional delegation, Scalise's profile and influence skyrocketed after he joined the leadership ranks and further after Trump won the presidential election, giving the GOP control of both chambers of Congress and the White House. 

Democrats have called out Scalise’s close ties to Trump on occasion.

When Scalise, speaking from the House floor on Friday, repeated Trump’s claim that Puerto Rico has received more than $90 billion for storm recovery, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, pushed back.

Hoyer said Scalise adopted the president's number, which was wrong and bore no relationship to reality. 

"He picked it out of the air. Numerous fact checkers have indicated that," Hoyer said Friday. "We are having a number of challenges to the underpinning of our Democratic system and the authority of Congress versus the exercise of authoritarian power by the president, and I would hope (Scalise) would share that view."

To date, about $41 billion has been approved for Puerto Rico's recovery. The White House has said the larger number cited by Trump that Scalise repeated includes about $50 billion in anticipated future aid.

Scalise, who almost died after taking a bullet to the hip when a gunman opened fire on Republicans as they practiced for a charity baseball game, has often defended his relationship with Trump, who visited the hospital the night of the shooting and stayed in regular contact with Scalise during his recovery.

He said he worries that Democrats are trying to drive the country toward socialism through Congress and the slate of Democratic nominee hopefuls who have entered the presidential race.

“It shows you what’s at stake next year,” he said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.