Republicans reject Rep. Jim Jordan for House speaker on a first ballot, signaling more turmoil ahead

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sits with Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, right, as Republicans finish the first round of voting for him to be the new House speaker, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023. Behind him from left are former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., and Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — More turmoil ahead, Republicans rejected Rep. Jim Jordan for House speaker on a first ballot Tuesday, as an unexpectedly numerous 20 holdouts denied the hard-charging ally of Donald Trump the GOP majority needed to seize the gavel.

Additional voting was postponed as the House hit a standstill, stuck while Jordan works to shore up support from Republican colleagues to replace the ousted Kevin McCarthy for the job. Reluctant Republicans are refusing to give Jordan their votes, viewing the Ohio congressman as too extreme for the powerful position of House speaker, second in line to the presidency. Next votes were expected Wednesday.


“We’re going to keep working,” Jordan said at the Capitol as evening fell.

It’s been two weeks of angry Republican infighting since McCarthy’s sudden removal by hard-liners, who are now within reach of a central seat of U.S. power. The vote for House speaker, once a formality in Congress, has devolved into another bitter showdown for the gavel.

Jordan said after the first vote that he was not surprised and expected to do better in the next round. But the afternoon dragged on with no further votes Tuesday. “We feel confident,” he said, ducking into a leadership office.

The tally, with 200 Republicans voting for Jordan and 212 for the Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, left no candidate with a clear majority, as 20 Republicans voted for someone else. With Republicans in majority control, Jordan must pick up most of his GOP foes to win.

The holdouts are a mix of pragmatists, ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing to newer lawmakers from districts where voters back home prefer President Joe Biden to Trump.

But with public pressure bearing down on lawmakers from Trump’s allies including Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, it’s unclear how long the holdouts can last. Jordan swiftly flipped dozens of detractors in a matter of days, shoring up Republicans who have few options left, but it was not enough.

“Jim Jordan will be a great speaker,” the former president said outside the courthouse in Manhattan, where he is facing business fraud charges. “I think he’s going to have the votes soon, if not today, over the next day or two.”

The political climb has been steep for Jordan, the combative Judiciary Committee chairman and a founding member of the right-flank Freedom Caucus. He is known more as a chaos agent than a skilled legislator, raising questions about how he would lead. Congress faces daunting challenges, risking a federal shutdown at home if it fails to fund the government and fielding Biden’s requests for aid to help Ukraine and Israel in the wars abroad.

With the House Republican majority narrowly held at 221-212, Jordan can afford to lose only a few votes to reach the 217 majority threshold, if there are no further absences.

Jeffries swiftly intervened, declaring was time for Republicans to partner with Democrats to reopen the House.

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers have been floating ways to operate the House by giving greater power to the interim speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., or another temporary speaker.

“The Republicans are unable to function right now,” said Jeffries. He said talks “would accelerate” between Democrats and Republicans into the evening.

As the somber roll call was underway, each lawmaker announcing their choice, the holdouts quickly surfaced.

One, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a leader of the centrists, voted McCarthy, the ousted former speaker. Murmurs rippled through the chamber. Others voted for Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who was the party’s first nominee to replace McCarthy before he, too, was rejected by hardliners last week.

Making the official nominating speech was another top Trump ally, GOP conference chairwoman Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who declared Jordan will be “We the people’s speaker.”

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic caucus chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar of California nominated Jeffries and warned that handing the speaker’s gavel to a “vocal election denier” would be “a terrible message” at home and abroad.

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