U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the chamber’s third highest ranking leader, said Tuesday that he plans continue supporting Donald Trump, his party’s nominee in the presidential election just four weeks away.
“Let me be clear,” Scalise said Tuesday in a statement to The Advocate, “Donald Trump will do more to rebuild our middle class, get our economy moving again, strengthen our national defense, and appoint Supreme Court Justices who uphold our Constitution rather than rewrite it. Those are the reasons I’ve supported Donald Trump for President and that is why I will continue to do so.”
Scalise’s comments came a couple of hours after a defiant Trump let loose a torrent of Twitter attacks – mostly against fellow Republicans.
The party is reeling as dozens of Republican leaders have retracted their endorsements of Trump since Friday’s revelation of decade-old sexually aggressive comments the GOP standard-bearer made about women.
Though Scalise asked Trump to apologize on Friday, the Jefferson Republican had not directly said until Tuesday whether he would join those abandoning Trump or stand by his candidate in the race against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"Electing Hillary Clinton means continuing down the failed path of radical and divisive policies, a weaker military, and rising healthcare costs, or we can elect a president who will work with Congress to create jobs, grow a healthy economy, confront the increasing threats that we face from around the globe, and get America back on the right track,” Scalise said.
Trump is still likely to win Louisiana, though polls are showing support for his campaign is slipping elsewhere.
Scalise also backed U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who on Monday told GOP House members he would no longer campaign for or defend the party’s nominee.
Ryan told members, who are up for election next month, that they could make their decision about Trump. He was concerned, and focused, on maintaining the Republican majority in the House.
But Ryan did not withdraw his endorsement of Trump, though Politico reported that sources are saying he might.
Trump railed against "establishment" Republicans Tuesday, calling Ryan, who works closely with Scalise in their House leadership roles, a "very weak and ineffective leader." Trump also tweeted that Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was the party’s nominee in 2008, is "very foul-mouthed" and he dubbed "disloyal" Republicans as "far more difficult than Crooked Hillary."
Trump tweeted, “It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.”
The swirl in the Republican Party began Friday with the release of a 2005 recording by the television show Access Hollywood. Trump is heard saying that because he’s a celebrity, he could grope women’s privates at will and that he pursued married women. Trump apologized for the remarks.
But on Saturday a stream of prominent Republican elected officials began withdrawing their endorsements.
Ryan, Scalise and the House’s number two chief, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, discussed what to do, according to Politico.
Election Day is Nov. 8, and early voting begins Oct. 25 in Louisiana.