The House on Wednesday again declined to elect Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan as speaker, leaving the chamber in chaos as the Republican majority remains unable to choose a leader who can win a simple majority vote.
Twenty-two Republicans refused to back Jordan for the speakership, up from the 20 who would not back him on his first attempt Tuesday. All of the GOP lawmakers who voted against Jordan, a right-wing firebrand, backed more traditional Republicans, including former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana.
House Democrats all backed Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who finished with 212 votes to Jordan’s 199.
Jordan’s tally was a modern low for a majority party’s nominee for speaker, but he vowed to stay in the race.
“We picked up some today. A couple of them dropped off, but they voted for me before; I think they’ll come back again,” Jordan told reporters after the vote. “So we’ll keep talking to members — keep working on it.”
Jordan’s office confirmed that he planned to keep trying to win the gavel.
“We’re going to keep going,” Jordan spokesperson Russell Dye told reporters.
Within an hour of the failed second vote, boxes of pizza and cartons of Diet Coke were wheeled into the Capitol to fuel lawmakers, who are continuing to negotiate behind closed doors.
The next vote could happen as soon as noon Eastern time on Thursday.
The House has been in free fall for two weeks now. On Oct. 3 a small faction of rebel Republicans ousted McCarthy with the help of the Democrats. Scalise dropped out of the race for speaker last week after it became apparent he didn’t have enough votes. Jordan took his place, and on Tuesday fell short of the speakership when 20 Republicans voted against him.
After Wednesday’s vote, McCarthy looked back on his ouster, which was led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). The Californian called the chaos in Congress “embarrassing.”
“You had eight crazies who were led by Gaetz that followed every single Democrat to shut down a branch of government,” McCarthy told reporters. “Now is that going to be the new norm?”
He added: “They picked politics instead of looking at how to govern.”
Without a speaker, the chamber cannot vote on vital legislation, including bills to send funding to Ukraine as it fends off the Russian invasion and to Israel as its military prepares to invade the Gaza Strip in response to an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants.
If the House cannot elect a speaker, members could choose to empower Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who is serving as speaker pro tempore, to move crucial legislation. Former GOP House Speakers John A. Boehner, who received one vote Wednesday, and Newt Gingrich pushed for that solution in statements Tuesday.
After voting against Jordan, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) told reporters that he did not “see the outcome changing” and that he would back giving McHenry more power as acting speaker.
Five Republicans defected from voting for Jordan on Wednesday. Two Republicans — Reps. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale and Victoria Spartz of Indiana— switched their votes to Jordan. Florida’s Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who was absent for Tuesday’s vote, voted for Jordan on Wednesday.
Whether a third round would change any votes in Jordan’s favor seemed unlikely Wednesday afternoon. Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who twice voted for Scalise, told reporters that more Jordan supporters were “certain” to defect if a third floor vote were called.
“The status quo right now is unacceptable to the American public, and we are hurting our country when we are performing like this,” Womack said.
He also took issue with right-wing influencers and television stars who have waged a public campaign to pressure GOP holdouts into backing Jordan.
Womack said his staff had been threatened in an effort to pressure him to flip his vote.
“It is obvious what the strategy has been: Attack, attack attack,” he said.
Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.), who also twice voted for Scalise, told reporters he had received similar treatment.
“Look, it doesn’t work,” Rutherford said. “Nobody likes to have their arm twisted.”
Jordan’s continued failure to secure the speakership is a defeat for former President Trump, who endorsed the Ohioan shortly after McCarthy’s ouster.
Jordan was a key player in the Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, further cementing his loyalty to the former president. Trump, who faces state and federal criminal charges for his attempts to overturn the election and his alleged mishandling of classified documents, is the front-runner in polls for the GOP nomination for president in 2024.
Both men have been vocal critics of Democrats and traditional Republicans.
Democrats have cast Jordan as a far-right extremist who has never passed a law throughout his 16 years in Congress.
Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Long Beach), speaking to The Times, called Jordan the “most destructive and extremist” member of his party.
“I think he’s an insurrectionist and an election denier,” Garcia said Wednesday.
He said Democrats would remain united behind Jeffries as their nominee for speaker and that his party is not to blame for the mayhem.
“The chaos and dysfunction is on them, and we are waiting to get back to work,” Garcia said. “We have a lot of important issues we face.”
Pinho reported from Los Angeles.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
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