Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, lost his second attempt to become speaker of the House on Wednesday, failing to garner enough support from his own party following his first unsuccessful effort 24 hours earlier.
Jordan lost ground between the two votes, with 22 Republicans voting for a range of other candidates instead.
During Tuesday’s ballot, 20 Republicans voted against Jordan, more than many on Capitol Hill had expected. Two lawmakers switched to supporting him for Wednesday’s second round, but they were outnumbered by four who flipped against him.
The situation “ain’t looking great” for Jordan, said Rep. Doug Lamalfa, one of the Ohioan’s new supporters.
Jordan’s loss means the House remains without a speaker and can’t move legislation amid a conflict in the Middle East and less than a month to go before the government could shut down.
Speaking to reporters in the late afternoon, Jordan said that he planned to stay in the race, but that he did not expect another vote Wednesday. Earlier, the lawmaker expressed optimism about his chances, despite losing ground on the second vote. “We’ve got a cross section of the conference now,” Jordan said. “There’s, you know, 20 individuals we need to talk to. We continue to do that.”
Jordan’s allies — including local party officials, grassroots activists, and journalists — waged an intense pressure campaign to try and break down his opposition after the first round, flooding offices with calls and reportedly raising the prospect of primary threats. (One lawmaker’s wife even received text messages warning her husband to back McCarthy.) Though Jordan himself reportedly did not direct the efforts, lawmakers suggested that they had badly backfired.
“It is obvious what the strategy has been — attack, attack. Attack the members who don’t agree with you, attack them, beat them into submission,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. He later added “that’s precisely what’s what moved the numbers from 20 to 22 on that last vote, and certain to go higher if there’s a third vote.”
Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., said that Jordan had made a mistake by trying to “shame” his opponents with a floor vote. “That tactic obviously didn’t work,” he told reporters. “It probably dug some members in stronger than they would have been a couple of days ago.”
Jordan has met opposition from a collection of swing district Republicans, defense hawks, and appropriators, groups that have frequently butted heads with the GOP’s right flank. Some lawmakers have been wary of Jordan’s connections to Donald Trump, who endorsed him for speaker, as well as his support for the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
But Jordan’s staunchest opponents have framed their stance as part of a more fundamental fight over who controls the GOP conference, saying they don’t want to reward the lawmaker’s hard-right supporters after they ousted former speaker Kevin McCarthy and tanked the nomination of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.
“I can’t get past the fact that a small group in our conference violated the rules to get rid of Kevin, and then blocked Steve,” Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., one of Jordan’s most vocal opponents said Tuesday. “You don’t have a process where I play by the rules and these other people can’t and then they get what they want. That’s not American. Americans want fair play and rule of law.”
“This was a vote of conscience and I stayed true to my principles. Intimidation and threats will not change my position,” Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger, R-Texas, tweeted. Womack said there were no policy concessions that Jordan could make to win over some of the holdouts. “This is not a transactional deal. This is not ‘give me this, or else,’” he told reporters.
Some holdouts appear more willing to negotiate. According to Bloomberg, a bloc of New York Republicans rejected an offer from Jordan that would have bumped it to $40,000 for joint filers, up from the current limit of $10,000.
That report received pushback from the New York GOP delegation. “We have had and continue to engage in discussions,” Rep. Andrew Garbarino said in a statement to Semafor. “However, there has been no offer made and no solutions reached.” A spokesman for Rep. Anthony D’Esposito said he “has not received any offer from Congressman Jordan on this, and claims to the contrary are simply not true.”
Jordan’s failure to pin down the top job has fed a contentious discussion about potentially giving Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry more power to temporarily fill the role so that the House can return to business. McHenry says his current authority is narrowly limited to gaveling the House in and out of session and overseeing a new speaker election, and there have been across-the-aisle discussions about empowering him to bring legislation to the floor.
That effort has been led by the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, as well as Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, who heads the Republican Governance Group. Brian Fitzpatrick, who co-chairs the Problem Solvers, told reporters that “now” was the moment to expand McHenry’s authority, possibly through the end of the year.
But the idea appears to be getting more traction across the GOP conference. Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, said the move would take “pressure off” the party and give Republicans their best chance to move their budget bills.
“If we’re stuck here? Yeah, I would give him some power,” said Rep. Carlos Giménez, R-Fla. “Some people will vilify me for saying that, but I think we need to get this House back open.”
Jordan told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he was “not particularly supportive” of empowering McHenry, but that the decision was for the conference. His team has reportedly whipped against the idea, though they’ve denied it publicly. Some hard right members have been more vocal in their opposition. “A vote to further empower a temporary Speaker is a vote to keep you broke and Washington broken,” Rep. Scott Perry tweeted.
Other members have expressed ambivalence, particularly about any deal that might require sacrifices to win Democratic votes. “I don’t like this Band-Aid approach,” Rep. Mike Garica, R-Calif. told reporters. “I don’t like changing the rules necessarily. So obviously, I want to see the language and I want to also know what deals are being made in the background in order to get Democrats on board.”
The View From Joe Biden
Following a visit to Israel, Biden was asked if he had a view on Jordan’s predicament.
“I ache for him,” Biden said sarcastically, placing a hand on his chest before laughing. “No. Zero. None.”