After their initial nominee bowed out, House Republicans nominated Rep. Jim Jordan for speaker. But there’s no guarantee he has the votes to win the position – or end the drama.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio won his party’s nomination for House speaker on Friday, but his win did little to settle questions about whether he can secure the gavel when the chamber votes next week and bring an end to the House GOP’s crippling civil war.
Just two days after losing the nominating contest to Majority Leader Steve Scalise and 10 days since a historic vote in which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from his post, Jordan had his moment. He earned the support of 124 members of the conference on Friday against Rep. Austin Scott – a Georgia Republican with little name recognition who received 81 votes after entering the race at the last minute to oppose Jordan.
But Jordan, like Scalise and McCarthy before him, faces an uphill battle to unify the conference. With a razor-thin GOP majority in the House, he’ll need the support of nearly every Republican to become speaker. And in a second vote to measure who would support him on the House floor, that uphill battle came into view – Jordan was more than 60 votes short of his gavel ambitions.
The GOP stopped short of testing their newly minted nominee on the House floor Friday. Lawmakers instead were expected to head home for the weekend before returning for a speaker vote early next week.
“People have been here a long time,” McCarthy told reporters after the votes on Friday. “We’ve now elected a speaker designee. I think people can go home, be with their family, come back.”
Jordan, the House Judiciary Committee chairman known for his fiery television hits and investigative gusto, may have seemed like an unlikely candidate for speaker just years ago, as an outspoken critic positioned squarely among those on the party’s right flank. But the conservative firebrand has bowed to leadership more recently, earning himself the coveted seat atop the Judiciary Committee and wielding unfettered influence in the process.
Even so, the Ohio Republican is far from mainstream. Jordan, who was elected to Congress in 2006, is a top ally to President Donald Trump and has amplified his false election claims. His level of involvement in the events around Jan. 6 remains unclear, since he refused to testify before a congressional committee investigating the insurrection, which characterized him in its report as a “significant player in President Trump’s efforts.” He’s considered to be one of the most conservative members of Congress, setting an all-time record for voting with a conservative group and being among the founding members of the House Freedom Caucus.
With Trump’s endorsement, some House Republicans coalesced around Jordan, while others touted him as a change to the status quo.
Still, among many moderates, a Jordan speakership is unthinkable. But after 10 days without a speaker, leaving the chamber effectively at an embarrassing standstill, those centrists may have little choice but to back him.
Indeed, while conservatives in the conference have time and time again been willing to work in opposition to party leadership and elicit chaos within the chamber, moderates haven’t been willing to do the same. Where those on the far-right were unwilling to cave to a Scalise speakership, those in the middle may not be able to do the same to prevent Jordan from taking the gavel.
Rep. Richard Hudson, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee backed Jordan for the speakership on Friday morning, writing in a statement that Jordan “is the person who should lead us.”
“Shame on us for allowing personal disputes and differences of opinion on tactics to sideline us when America needs us most,” Hudson said. “Removing Speaker Kevin McCarthy was a mistake. Our inability to rally behind Steve Scalise is a win for the forces that threaten the country. We now find ourselves at a crossroads.”
House Democrats gathered on the steps of the Capitol after the votes, criticizing House Republicans for throwing the chamber into a state of “absolute paralysis” in recent days while urging them not to support Jordan for the speakership and instead join with Democrats on a bipartisan path forward.
“With their nomination of Jim Jordan, they are choosing chaos,” House Minority Whip Katherine Clark said. “Every Republican who casts their vote for him is siding with an insurrectionist against our democracy.”