House Republicans on Friday removed Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as their nominee for speaker of the House after he failed repeatedly to earn the necessary votes to take the gavel, again delaying the House from reopening for business.
Jordan and his allies spent all week trying to convince Republican colleagues that he was the right person to be named speaker, calling for the conference to “unite” around the conservative firebrand favored by the Republican base and former president Donald Trump.
But their argument was stymied by several issues, ranging from the political to the personal. Some members were put off by Jordan’s failure to quickly and vigorously condemn threats against lawmakers who had voted against him. Some thought he hadn’t done enough to show he could lead all Republicans and not just the far-right flank. And he couldn’t overcome intraparty resentments that have lingered either for years or developed over the past week, particularly after Jordan and his allies’ aggressive campaign to get their votes.
In the first round of voting earlier this week, 20 Republicans opposed him, a number that only climbed with each vote, demonstrating he had no path to victory. In Friday’s vote, another three Republicans turned away from Jordan: Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Tom Kean Jr. (N.J.) and Marcus J. Molinaro (N.Y.), who each represent competitive swing districts. In total, twenty-five Republicans voted against Jordan and no lawmakers flipped to support him. Jordan lost more support than he gained during each of the three rounds of voting, a sign that his pressure campaign had backfired.
Exasperated, Republicans conferred Friday afternoon and voted 112-86 to remove him as their speaker-designate, triggering a new round of candidate forums next week to elect a new speaker-designate — their third in as many weeks.
Jordan afterward said he had no regrets about how he handled his run and hopes the GOP conference can elect someone.
“We have to come together, and I think we will,” he said.
Lacking a permanent speaker for 17 days, the House has not considered any legislation since Sept. 30, when then Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced a last-gasp proposal to avert a government shutdown. The legislation passed the House with more than 200 Democrats supporting it, which led to McCarthy’s removal as speaker three days later.
Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) also could not earn the necessary 217 votes on the House floor to wield the speaker’s gavel, leading him to drop out of the race last week and paving the way for Jordan to try to secure the votes this week.
Members from opposite ends of the Republican Conference suggested that, now that each wing has taken down the other’s preferred choice in Scalise and Jordan, they might be able to have a fresh start next week with new candidates who do not have long histories in the House.
“It was pretty ugly. So I’m hoping that now we can all get together and then kind of, you know, move forward,” said Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who was staunchly against Jordan’s candidacy.
Some names began to emerge almost immediately after Jordan’s loss Friday.
Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R. Minn) — who several Republicans had previously discussed as a possible consensus candidate for the fractious conference — “has begun making calls for the speakership,” according to a person close to Emmer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. Reps. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), Jack Bergman (R-Mich.), Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), and Austin Scott (R-Ga.) have publicly declared they’re running for speaker, with half a dozen other Republicans mulling a bid. Republicans have until Sunday to declare their candidacies and the conference will vote Tuesday to choose a new speaker-designate.
McCarthy quickly endorsed Emmer Friday, saying in a statement that his ally in leadership “is the right person for the job” and “can unite the conference.”
Republicans inability to coalesce around any member within their ranks has left them feeling dejected, frustrated, and close to hopeless that they may never be able to uniformly decide on a GOP speaker since they can only lose four votes to approve anything or anyone through their fractious majority.
“Now, how somebody gets to 217 in this life and not in heaven is a good question for all of us to ask. But I am, as I said, seriously considering and still praying about it,” said Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) as he weighs whether to also run for speaker.
But several Jordan allies were angered with colleagues about forcing Jordan to drop out of the race, harboring bad feelings that could bleed into next week and negatively influence the election process.
“The most popular Republican in the United States Congress was just knifed by a secret ballot, in a private meeting in the basement of the Capitol. It’s as swampy as swamp gets. And Jim Jordan deserves better than that,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who mobilized McCarthy’s ouster earlier this month.
But Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who also voted to remove McCarthy as speaker, said he’s willing to search for a new option.
“Let’s get on with it. I’m ready,” he said. “I think we can do that.”
With as many as 10 Republicans possibly declaring candidacies by Sunday, some Republicans worry that the crowded field could lead into several rounds of voting behind closed doors before a majority of them can get behind a candidate.
“It’s probably impossible to mount a campaign for speaker in just a couple of days,” said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-N.Y.), a vulnerable Republican who voted against Jordan. “The process took McCarthy, [Nancy] Pelosi and many others months and years to build the confidence in members to get across the finish line.”
Lawmakers on both sides of aisle want to reopen the House as quickly as possible, in part to begin the process of providing more aid to Israel for its war with Hamas. But they are also staring down a more pressing deadline: In less than a month, the short-term funding bill McCarthy pushed through runs out and the government will shut down without additional legislation.
A significant group of Republicans wanted the House to vote on an expected bipartisan resolution that would have empowered Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) to temporarily perform the functions of speaker until Jan. 3, 2024. The resolution — which was drafted by Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and backed in large part by the group he chairs, the Republican Governance Group — would have required a significant number of Democratic votes to pass, which they had signaled they could provide.
But the fractious conference that was boiling over with tense feelings toward each other nixed consideration of the resolution on Thursday and instead chose to oust Jordan and restart the search for a consensus speaker.
“It’s up to the other members to finally come to the conclusion that, even if we’re still in the process of trying to elect the speaker, it would sure be nice to open the place up so we can conduct the business of the House and the business of the American people,” Joyce said.
Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.