Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio lost the first floor vote on his nomination to become speaker of the House Tuesday, encountering an unexpected wall of resistance that surprised some supporters and opponents alike.
Twenty Republicans cast ballots against Jordan, who needed to lose fewer than five votes from his own party, two weeks after the House ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the speakership.
“Candidly, I thought it would be a little bit closer,” Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn, a Jordan backer, told Semafor. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla said he’d only expected somewhere “above seven” no’s.
Jordan and his supporters had tried to project an air of confidence heading into the vote (McCarthy, a key ally, had suggested he might sew up the win in a single round). Some are now questioning whether the Judiciary Committee chair will be able to make up his deficit.
“I don’t see how he can recover,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul told reporters. “For me the wild card is McCarthy coming back.”
A spokesman for Jordan said there would likely be another round of votes on Tuesday. Asked earlier if he’d be willing to match the 15 rounds of ballots McCarthy endured to win the gavel in January, Jordan suggested he would. “Whatever it takes to get a speaker today,” he told reporters.
McCarthy faced 20 holdouts of his own at the time, but gradually whittled down his opposition during a grueling night of votes that nearly resulted in a brawl on the House floor. Whether Republicans have the appetite for a similar spectacle is unclear.
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., described the GOP conference’s mood as “somber,” adding that “tensions are high.”
One member who voted against Jordan — Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif — has already said he will switch to supporting him during a second round. But at least two — Gimenez and Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. — have already vowed not to support Jordan in future votes. And others appear ready to flip against Jordan: Rep. Marianne Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa said she was dropping her support for him and believed a “consensus” candidate would be the best option moving forward. Additional lawmakers have told reporters they expect many more defections.
Of the twenty Republicans who voted against Jordan, eight represent districts that President Joe Biden won in 2020 or that Donald Trump carried by no more than 2 points. Several others were appropriators, who have clashed with their party’s right flank during the budget process.
Buck, the lone member of the conservative Freedom Caucus to vote no, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Jordan’s involvement “in the activities surrounding Jan. 6” was a dealbreaker. Jordan aggressively questioned the results of the 2020 election, and on Jan. 5, 2021 forwarded a text message to Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, sketching out the legal theory that Vice President Mike Pence could throw out the race’s result.
“We have 20 Republicans sitting in Joe Biden districts right now,” Buck said. “There’s no way that we win the majority if the message that we send to the American people is that we believe the election was stolen.”
The anti-Jordan bloc also included several New York Republicans, some of whom highlighted their desire to repeal the cap on the state and local tax deduction — a high-priority regional issue — in statements explaining their votes. That could signal a willingness on their part to negotiate.
“I want a Speaker who understands Long Island’s unique needs,” Rep. Anthony D’Esposito said in a statement. “Restoring the SALT deduction, safeguarding 9/11 victim support funding, and investing in critical infrastructure are our priorities. I look forward to discussions with candidates.” Following a more formal statement, Rep. Nick LaLota tweeted, “Long Island first,” followed by a series of American flag, bicep, and salute emojis.
Every House Democrat voted for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, while Jordan’s opponents backed a range of other Republicans. Those included McCarthy, former New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, and Majority Leader Steve Scalise. Scalise was previously nominated for the speakership but dropped from the race after it became clear he wouldn’t have enough support during a floor vote, in large part thanks to opposition by Jordan’s backers.
Lingering anger over Scalise’s treatment appears to have cost Jordan some support, too. “My vote for Steve Scalise was a matter of principle,” Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., said in a statement. “He defeated Mr. Jordan in our conference vote and then was promptly kneecapped before he could win over his opponents. It was the most egregious act against a sitting member of our conference I have witnessed in my thirteen years of service.”
According to CNN’s Annie Grayer, Jordan asked Scalise for his help sealing up the speaker’s race during a meeting after the first ballot, but Scalise declined to commit any assistance. (Scalise’s office claimed the report was “not accurate.”)
Kadia Goba contributed reporting.