On Friday, Jim Jordan’s candidacy to be the next House speaker looked dead on arrival with 55 House Republicans privately expressing their opposition in a secret ballot. By Monday night, he’d arrived at the edge of a victory, with just a smattering of public holdouts remaining ahead of a scheduled noon vote on Tuesday.
The Ohio Republican’s speaker bid gathered momentum on Monday as he flipped one House Republican after the next. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo. went from a — direct quote — “hell no!” on Jordan days earlier to a yes that morning, saying Jordan spoke to her about “keeping the government open with conservative funding, the need for strong border security, [and] our need for consistent international support in times of war and unrest,” among other topics.
Among the most notable endorsements was House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers, who had signaled intense opposition to Jordan last week — even floating a possible deal with Democrats as a fallback option. Rogers said the pair “agreed” on the need to pass the annual NDAA, along with addressing must-pass items like government funding and the farm bill. “As a result, I have decided to support Jim Jordan for Speaker of the House on the floor,” he wrote on the social media site X.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul announced he was a “yes” after coming away convinced Jordan would allow a vote on a bill combining aid for Israel and Ukraine with border funding. “What he was saying is look, I’m generally supportive of combining all these things, but you know, I would also have to see the details in terms of the funding, which is fair,” McCaul was quoted saying by The Messenger. Axios reported that four members came away with the same impression from Jordan, even as his own office denied any promises were made.
But not everyone was swayed by Jordan’s pitch — and it would only take five members to derail his candidacy.
Moderate Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb. said he was worried backing Jordan would reward the small band of rebels who ousted McCarthy and refused to abide by the conference’s majority vote to nominate Majority Leader Steve Scalise. “I don’t play a game where the other guy can break the rules and win,” Bacon told reporters. “We’ve had a minority of the majority dictate all of this, and it’s unacceptable.”
However, he didn’t seem eager to spearhead a moderate bloc of resistance. “I’m not here to whip votes against Jim,” Bacon told Semafor. “It’s not about Jim. It’s about Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise and how they were treated.”
Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla. told NBC News that he was having “real problems” with Jordan and accused his supporters of trying to intimidate him. Some lawmakers have dealt with an onslaught from conservative media and activists who are assailing GOP holdouts to fall in line behind Jordan.
Most of the New York delegation in competitive districts have been slower to say where they stand on Jordan than they were to support Steve Scalise. Rep. Mike Lawler, D-N.Y. told reporters he planned to vote for McCarthy for speaker, while Rep. Marc Molinaro, D-N.Y. said he’d vote for Jordan.
Democrats are eager to mine Jordan’s record for attacks, including his support for Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, his votes for changes to Social Security and Medicare, and his support for federal abortion restrictions.
But some members are also skeptical of the argument that swing district races will be affected by the specifics of the speaker — not when Trump’s presence on the ticket is likely to overwhelm all other political conservation. As one senior Republican aide put it, “No one is going to be voting on Jim Jordan in November.”
Other criticisms were grounded in Jordan’s approach to funding the government, a major fight looming in a month. Jordan voted against the current stopgap funding measure that expires on Nov. 17.
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., said some House GOP appropriators are uneasy about continuing to draft spending bills considered dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate. “We’re concerned about those topline numbers that we’re being forced to write to,” Womack told CNN.
Jordan’s whip operation focused on a message of unity over the weekend, much like the “Dear Colleague” letter he sent to members Monday morning. “You’ve been honest and open, and I appreciate the candid conversations. In these conversations, we’ve also discussed your thoughts on how we can best move forward,” the letter said. “And we must move forward.”
Joseph and Kadia's View
On the surface, there’s an easy story here: On World Spine Day, moderate Republicans donated theirs. Just as many of their detractors predicted would happen, the right flank is poised to win the speaker of their choice by shredding institutional norms, while their critics refuse to do the same to regain leverage over the conference.
But there’s also a question of who is caving to who here — Jordan’s charm offensive seemed to convince an awful lot of skeptical members that a shutdown can be avoided and Ukraine aid can pass, even though he’s made no such guarantees publicly. We’ll soon see how much they were going off of intuition or something more concrete behind the scenes.
There’s also always the “Nixon goes to China” possibility: Some members seem hopeful he might be able to make deals that McCarthy never could because of his solid popularity on the right.
“I don’t think there’s any question when you look at the history of Jim Jordan’s very conservative positions, that’s going to give him the opportunity to have a broader breadth of conservative cred, if you will,” Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., told Semafor.
Room for Disagreement
It’s possible the question of who is speaker is overblown and the conference’s less resolvable differences will reassert themselves no matter what. Republican lobbyist Liam Donovan noted some members are already worried that too many conservatives are publicly opposed to a continuing resolution to fund the government under any circumstances, which sets up yet another shutdown standoff.
The View From the Senate
Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said he believes a foreign aid package that merges military aid to Ukraine and Israel alongside border security measures can “probably” be assembled in the Senate and pass the House.
“I think if we pass a strong package here, the Senate gets a big vote … I don’t think there’s 218 votes to strip out Ukraine aid,” Graham, who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee, told Semafor. “The question is do you get a vote, and I think eventually you would.”