Rep. Jim Jordan’s bid to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives failed in a first vote Tuesday, raising the prospect that the Ohio Republican could keep trying with multiple ballots.
Minutes into the vote, Jordan’s candidacy was already in peril as a string of Republicans surprised their caucus by voting against the Ohio lawmaker. The trend continued over the half-hour voice vote. Jordan ultimately fell short by 20 votes, a higher number than many in the conference had predicted ahead of the vote.
Those who were opposed to Jordan cast their ballots for other people, including former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise. Neither man was in the running, however, so voting for them merely had the effect of denying Jordan that vote. Some Republicans even voted for Lee Zeldin, who left Congress in January.
Following the first ballot, Jordan huddled with his close allies on the House floor, before interim Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry called a recess of the House.
“We got to keep talking to members,” Jordan told reporters after the first vote.
The House will meet again Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET, when another vote on Jordan’s speakership is expected. Postponing the vote for a day bought Jordan valuable time to try and win over Republican holdouts.
Yet with 20 members already having shown themselves willing to publicly vote against Jordan, and even more holdouts expected on a second ballot, the task of coming together, for House Republicans, is daunting.
Tuesday’s vote came just two weeks after a faction of hard-line Republican lawmakers ousted then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and threw the lower chamber into chaos.
The Judiciary Committee chairman could only afford to lose four Republicans out of 221 and still win the gavel. He lost 20.
The deeply divided Republican conference has so far been unable to coalesce around a candidate for speaker after McCarthy’s ouster. Scalise was the party’s original nominee to succeed McCarthy, but he was forced to abandon his bid last week after he could not secure the votes.
McCarthy himself faced 15 rounds of voting before he won the gavel in January. Jordan has said he wants the House to keep voting Tuesday until it chooses a speaker, suggesting Jordan intends to wear down his opposition on the House floor.
The House has been leaderless for two weeks after a faction of eight Republicans led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida ousted McCarthy in an unprecedented no-confidence vote.
Democrats refused to come to the rescue of McCarthy’s speakership, which led to his downfall. They have no incentive to do Jordan any favors either, a hard-right Ohio Republican and close ally of Donald Trump who is leading an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden.
This means Jordan has to rely entirely on his party’s narrow majority.
The leadership vacuum in the House has put Congress in a state of paralysis, unable to move forward with important national security legislation amid rising tensions and escalating conflict around the world.
Biden and Republican national security hawks like House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas have warned the leadership vacuum in the lower chamber is dangerous.
The president has called on Congress to pass emergency security assistance for Israel after the devastating Hamas terrorist attacks, as well as for Ukraine as Kyiv is running out of time to push Russia back before the weather makes military operations more difficult.
— CNBC’s Emily Wilkins contributed reporting from Washington D.C.