By Billy House, Erik Wasson, and Laura Litvan
October 17, 2023 at 1:53 PM EDT
Updated on October 17, 2023 at 3:20 PM EDT
Republican Jim Jordan’s hardball tactics cost him votes Tuesday in his campaign to be US House speaker as 20 GOP holdouts withheld support from the ultra-conservative backed by former President Donald Trump.
The vote pushed the chamber into more chaos, with lawmakers unable to conduct any business since House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s Oct. 3 ouster despite an impending government shutdown next month and an escalating war in the Middle East.
The Ohio Republican said he plans to press forward in his bid, with another vote on his candidacy later Tuesday. But Jordan, a hardliner known for his bombastic personality and insurgent tactics, lost far more Republican votes on the first ballot than the eight or 10 some GOP lawmakers projected, calling into question his viability as a candidate.
Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer, who voted for McCarthy, said Jordan’s allies “are resorting to threats against anyone who refuses to back him.” The conference, she added, would remain divided with him as speaker.
The vote followed intense lobbying, threats and a right-wing pressure campaign mobilizing conservative activists and campaign donors, along with media figures including Glenn Beck and Fox News’s Sean Hannity to persuade holdouts to drop their opposition to Jordan.
Republican Byron Donalds, a Trump acolyte who voted for Jordan, said the outside pressure campaign backfired on Jordan. Others, including Steve Womack, who voted for Majority Leader Steve Scalise, appeared to agree.
Scalise, who was briefly the GOP nominee for speaker last week, was “kneecapped before he could win over his opponents,” Womack said. “It was the most egregious act against a sitting member of our conference I have witnessed in my thirteen years of service.”
Jordan’s showing in the initial ballot compared unfavorably with McCarthy’s first-ballot vote in January. McCarthy was 15 votes short of the majority he needed in the first round of voting, and it took 15 rounds for him to win then.
Jordan’s elevation would be a victory for Republicans’ emerging populist wing. The House Judiciary Committee chairman has been one of Trump’s most vociferous congressional defenders and is one of the leaders of the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.
He supported Trump’s denial of his loss in the 2020 presidential election and voted to overturn Arizona and Pennsylvania electoral college count results after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 202 .
Jordan, 59, who co-founded the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, faced opposition from moderates in the party and a splintering of views among Republicans over who should lead them going forward. All Democrats in the House united behind their party’s leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
Several senior House Republicans have expressed doubt any member of their party could get the 217 votes on the floor required to claim the speaker’s gavel without some help from Democrats.
McCarthy was pushed out by just eight hard-right Republicans who voted with Democrats to overthrow him.
His stance in leadership toward Ukraine aid is unclear. He has sent conflicting messages in private and public on how he will handle Biden’s request for new assistance to help with Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Russia. At a minimum, he has said, he wants increased oversight.
Trump’s endorsement gave Jordan an edge with conservatives in the chamber. But he’s an unlikely ally for for many of the more-moderate Republicans whose support will be needed on key legislation and whose survival in the 2024 elections could determine whether the party can keep House control. Eighteen House Republicans represent districts Biden won in 2020.
— With assistance by Zach C Cohen and Maeve Sheehey