The House Goes Another Day Without a Speaker as Jim Jordan Hunts for Votes

The House Goes Another Day Without a Speaker as Jim Jordan Hunts for Votes

After Rep. Jim Jordan and his allies signaled he was a handful of votes away from the speakership, the far-right Ohio Republican came up embarrassingly short on Tuesday, prolonging the gridlock in the House until at least Wednesday.

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Two weeks after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the position in a historic vote, the House remained paralyzed, leaving Congress unable to send any legislation to President Joe Biden. Even more significantly, House Republicans had no clear path forward late Tuesday, except to try again the next morning. 

With one of his allies out of town for a funeral Tuesday, Jordan could afford to lose only three Republican votes in the narrowly divided House. Mere minutes into the voting, he had already lost four. Ultimately, 20 Republicans backed others for the job, leaving Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries the top vote-getter at 212 votes, but still short of the 217 needed to win the job.

Jordan, a founder of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and a key player in the effort to overturn the 2020 election and keep President Donald Trump in power, remained the only serious contender for the speakership Tuesday night. Though as he remained unable to lock up the gavel, some of his opponents began expressing interest in other options.

In the hours after Jordan came up short, many of the holdouts, including Reps. Don Bacon of Nebraska, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Kay Granger of Texas, John Rutherford of Florida, and Steve Womack of Arkansas, called for members to immediately return to the floor for another vote, a move that appeared to be aimed at depriving Jordan of time to work on flipping his detractors. Iowa Rep. Mariannette Miller Meeks, who voted for Jordan but had expressed concerns about him leading the House in the party’s conference meeting Monday evening, joined those calls for a speedy second vote as well. Several House Republicans also backed a plan to expand the powers of Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry.

“Until we can find clear consensus among the Republican Conference, it’s time to give expanded authority to Speaker Pro Tempore McHenry so the House can resume governing,” wrote Oregon Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a swing-district Republican who added that she planned to keep voting for McCarthy. 

Asked by reporters about the possibility of empowering McHenry, Jeffries reaffirmed his support for a “bipartisan path forward.” He suggested that McHenry was preferable to Jordan.

“I think he’s respected on our side of the aisle,“ Jeffries said of McHenry. “There are a whole host of other Republicans who are respected on our side of the aisle. Jim Jordan is not one of them.

Jordan, however, was still working to secure the votes he needed late Tuesday. He could be seen on the House floor chatting with McCarthy and then Granger after the vote. In the afternoon, some holdouts signaled they’d be open to backing Jordan, with one, California Rep. Doug LaMalfa, explicitly saying he would after having cast his ballot for McCarthy earlier in the day.

“Today’s vote for Kevin McCarthy was no aspersion on Jim Jordan,” LaMalfa wrote in a statement posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “I spoke with Jim after the first vote to confirm my support going forward, and he was happy and understood.” 

But so far, most of the Republicans who voted against Jordan on Tuesday seemed prepared to hold the line, decrying the pressure campaign they say his allies have waged. It’s also possible that some of the members who backed him on the first ballot could turn against him as soon as Wednesday. The decision by Jordan to recess and wait nearly a full twenty-four hours before trying again suggested he was struggling to secure the final votes he needed, the same problem McCarthy faced earlier this year. The House adjourned Tuesday night with another Speaker’s vote planned for 11 a.m. on Wednesday. 

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