Jim Jordan forced out of House speaker race after losing secret ballot

user avatar Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
October 21, 2023 at 07:27
epublican colleagues vote against Ohio congressman’s continued bid after his third failed attempt to corral support
Jim Jordan at the US Capitol in Washington DC on 19 October. Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP
Jim Jordan at the US Capitol in Washington DC on 19 October. Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP

Jim Jordan of Ohio was forced out of the House speakership race on Friday after his Republican colleagues voted against his continued bid for the seat in a secret ballot after his third failed attempt to corral enough support to win the gavel.

Jordan’s lost bid followed a contentious week on Capitol Hill, during which he and his allies attempted to cajole more moderate Republicans into backing Jordan.

After his loss, Jordan told reporters he was “going to go back to work” and that it was “time to unite”.

It is not clear who Republicans could elevate as a next nominee. There’s a deadline of Sunday at noon for candidates to announce interest in the speakership. The conference is expected to return on Monday evening to hear from candidates for the speakership, with voting set for Tuesday. By that time, the House will have been without a speaker for three weeks, hamstrung on conducting the work they were elected to do.

Some moderates want to see a consensus candidate, while the far-right flank that ousted former speaker Kevin McCarthy previously said they would be “prepared to accept censure, suspension or removal from the conference” to get Jordan the speakership.

A handful of Republican House members have either said they’ll seek the speakership or are considering the idea. Most prominent among them is Minnesota’s Tom Emmer, currently the majority whip, the No 3 Republican in the chamber, who has McCarthy’s backing. Others in the mix include Oklahoma’s Kevin Hern, Georgia’s Austin Scott, Florida’s Byron Donalds, Louisiana’s Mike Johnson and Michigan’s Jack Bergman.

In the first floor vote of the speakership election, on Tuesday, 20 House Republicans opposed Jordan, leaving him far short of the 217 votes needed to capture the top job. Because of Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the House, Jordan could only afford four defections within his conference and still ascend to the speakership.

Even as Jordan tried to assuage moderates’ concerns, a second floor vote held on Wednesday revealed that opposition had only grown, as 22 Republicans opposed Jordan’s candidacy. By the third vote, on Friday, Jordan lost more support, with 25 House Republicans voting against him.

As long as the House remains without a speaker, the chamber cannot advance any legislation, leaving members unable to pass critical bills like a stopgap government funding measure or an aid package for Israel and Ukraine. Government funding is set to run out in less than a month, raising the threat of a federal shutdown next month.

Jordan’s announcement came two weeks after the historic ouster of McCarthy, after eight House Republicans joined Democrats in supporting a motion to vacate the chair. Following McCarthy’s removal, the House majority leader, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, initially won his conference’s nomination for speaker, but he dropped out of the race last week due to entrenched opposition among hard-right lawmakers.

As of Friday, it remained unclear how Republicans could end the standoff and resume the business of the House. One idea floated by centrist Democrats and embraced by some of Jordan’s critics involved expanding the powers of the acting speaker, the Republican Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, but the plan fizzled. Such a solution would raise serious constitutional questions, as the powers of an acting speaker are murky.

With Republicans embroiled in conflict, the House Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, has repeatedly called for the creation of a bipartisan governing coalition between Democrats and more moderate Republicans. Even Jordan’s staunchest opponents have rejected the idea of teaming up with Democrats, although that could change if the House remains at a standstill.

On Friday, Jeffries, who has received the most votes in the speakership votes but would not be able to get enough support to take the spot since Democrats are in the minority, called on his Republican colleagues to get to work. “Embrace bipartisanship and abandon extremism,” Jeffries said.

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