House Republicans are struggling to elect a Speaker after their latest nominee, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), lost 20 GOP votes on his first ballot effort and fell well short of clinching the gavel.
Plans for a second vote were postponed on Tuesday evening, a possible signal that Jordan risked losing more support if he had quickly gone to the floor for a second time.
At press time, the House was scheduled to hold a second Speakership vote at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.
In the first ballot, Jordan lost more than the eight to 10 votes some of his allies had been predicting, signaling that his march to the Speakership will be bumpy if — he can even arrive at the destination at all.
Jordan and his allies projected confidence after the first vote, arguing he would be the next House Speaker.
“We’re making progress… we’re gonna keep going,” Jordan told reporters Tuesday evening. “I’ve had great conversations, great discussions with our colleagues. And frankly no one in our conference wants to see any type of coalition government with Democrats.”
Asked how many ballots he is willing to go through, Jordan responded: “Till we get a Speaker.”
But it was unclear whether Jordan could win over opponents upset over the unseating of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the dismissal of Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.).
He also faces opposition from members worried he could be a hindrance in a 2024 election campaign.
Jordan and his team offered no signals they were even considering backing off, but one member of the Senate speculated that if Jordan could not quickly turn things around, he’d be in big trouble.
Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who was in the House until this year, said that Jordan’s performance on the House floor was “worse than expected,” and that if more people vote against Jordan on the second ballot, “he’s done.”
“If Jordan doesn’t get it, at some point, they’ve got to start looking at McCarthy again,” Mullin said.
Jordan, though, told reporters immediately after the first vote that he felt “confident.”
“We’ve already talked to some members who are gonna vote with us on the second ballot,” Jordan told reporters.
Hurt feelings and bitterness over McCarthy’s ouster and Scalise being forced to withdraw are still consuming the conference and the holdouts.
Scalise won a closed-door vote over Jordan last week, but then withdrew from floor consideration without a vote on the floor as it became clear that a large number of Jordan supporters had no intention of backing him.
Jordan last week did not immediately endorse Scalise in the conference meeting after he won, or right after it to reporters, though he did do so later that day. That enraged Scalise’s supporters.
The sting from those events were a clear factor in Tuesday’s vote as Jordan fell 17 GOP ballots short of the minimum 217 votes needed to win with every member of the House present. The House now has 433 members, with two vacancies.
“I voted for the guy who won the election,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said of his vote for Scalise. He also knocked the tactics of Jordan supporters over the weekend who he said were trying to “intimidate or threaten” the holdouts.
An intense pressure campaign over the weekend by allies of Jordan included conservative commentators and some influencers pressing voters to call their members of Congress to get them to support Jordan — a highly unusual move for a House leadership race — was also a factor in Tuesday’s vote.
“That millisecond when anybody tries to intimidate me is the moment where… I no longer have the flexibility because I will, I will not be pressured or intimidated,” Diaz-Balart added.
Fox News host Sean Hannity acknowledged on his radio show on Tuesday that he had gotten a list of Jordan holdouts over the weekend from his sources, and directed a producer to ask the holdouts why they would not support him. Axios first reported that email over the weekend.
“Apparently it triggered a number of your colleagues,” Hannity told Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Tuesday.
Roy encouraged the public to call their congressman.
“Call your member of Congress right now. Pick up the phone and call your congressman, and let them know what you think. The stakes are too high,” Roy said.
The beef between Jordan and Scalise appears to be intensifying.
According to a source familiar with the discussion, Jordan asked Scalise before the vote on Tuesday if he would give a nominating speech on his behalf — but Scalise would not commit to doing so. After the vote, Jordan asked Scalise for other help in his Speakership bid, but the source said Scalise would not commit.
But a spokesperson for Scalise pushed back on the notion that the majority leader refused to commit to helping Jordan.
“Leader Scalise has been the only candidate throughout this process who has publicly declared he will be supportive of whomever the conference nominates for Speaker, and his position has not changed. He voted for Jim Jordan on the floor and will continue to do so,” the spokesperson said.
Jordan last week had offered to nominate Scalise on the House floor. But Jordan had requested that Scalise then nominate him if it was clear that Scalise did not have the votes, Axios reported last week.
The Speaker turmoil has paralyzed the House, preventing it from addressing multiple crises — including a new war in Israel and Gaza and a looming Nov. 17 government funding deadline.
Jordan struggled out of the gate on Tuesday, losing the same number of votes as McCarthy when he faced multiple ballots at the start of the year.
One of the more notable and surprising Jordan opponents in that vote was Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee. As the government shutdown deadline looms, Jordan has told members that he would bring a long-term “clean” continuing resolution to the floor that would fund the government until at least April as a way to force the Senate to the negotiating table.
But he made significant progress over the weekend in flipping holdouts to support him.
Fifty-five House Republicans had said they would not vote for Jordan in a secret-ballot vote on Friday. On Tuesday, he had cut that number down to 20 as a number of centrist members shifted to his column.
Former President Trump has endorsed Jordan’s run for the Speakership and predicted he would eventually win. Trump remains the biggest power in the GOP, but it is also possible his ties to Jordan could hurt him with some GOP lawmakers.
One Republican, Rep. Ken Buck (Colo.), expressed concerns about Jordan’s stance on the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
“If he’s gonna lead this conference during a presidential election cycle, particularly a presidential election year with primaries and caucuses around the country, he’s gonna have to be strong and say Donald Trump didn’t win the election,” Buck told reporters Monday night.
Buck — one of eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy — cast his Speaker ballot on Tuesday for House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).
Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.), another defector who voted for McCarthy, said she is looking for a consensus candidate.
“Until somebody gets as many as Speaker McCarthy got, we’re going to be in this further divide,” she said. “I’m going to do everything I can within our conference to get a consensus candidate within the Republican Conference.”
A trio of New York Republicans, two of whom hail from districts President Biden won in 2020, cast their votes for former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.). The three — Reps. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), Nick Lalota (R-N.Y.) and Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.) — pointed to the needs of voters on Long Island, including protecting 9/11 victim support funding and restoring the state and local tax (SALT) deduction.
“Lee Zeldin understands the needs of Long Islanders better than anyone. He would have been a great governor, and he would make a great Speaker,” Garbarino said in a statement after the vote.
Democrats rallied behind their own leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), during Tuesday’s vote while giving signals that Republicans who vote for Jordan for Speaker will be subjected to heavy campaign advertisement attacks next year.
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) hit Jordan for opposing a series of bills, including approving natural disaster relief in states after they were ravaged by hurricanes and wildfires.
“We’re talking about someone who has spent his entire career trying to hold our country back, putting our national security in danger, attempting government shutdown after government shutdown, wasting taxpayer dollars on baseless investigations with dead ends, authoring the very bill that would ban abortion nationwide without exceptions and inciting violence on this chamber,” Aguilar said.
“Even leaders of his own party have called him a legislative terrorist,” he added, referring to remarks former GOP Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) once made.
Aris Folley, Rebecca Beitsch, and Al Weaver contributed.