Republicans nominate Jordan for House speaker after Scalise withdrawal


House Republicans on Friday elected Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) as their new speaker-designate, yet he faces the same daunting mathematical conundrum that bedeviled the brief attempt of Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.) to claim the gavel.

In an hours-long closed-door session Friday, GOP lawmakers — many of them visibly frustrated after a week of infighting — heard pitches from Jordan and Rep. Austin Scott (Ga.), who launched a last-minute bid for the speakership Friday morning.

Jordan — who narrowly lost to Scalise in a GOP vote earlier this week before the Louisiana Republican withdrew from the race a day later — emerged this time as the conference’s nominee with 124 votes, while Scott received 81 votes. Jordan’s vote tally was marginally higher than Scalise’s 113 count, suggesting he has much work ahead of him in getting to the 217 votes required to get elected by the full chamber.

Jordan’s elevation would cement the Republican Party’s shift to the far right — especially in the House — and would install as speaker someone who was a key ally in former president Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and a leading defender against Trump’s impeachment for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Jordan’s nomination was less a celebratory breakthrough and more of an unsteady mile marker for a Republican conference that has been plunged into chaos this week amid deep divisions. GOP lawmakers’ inability to unite around a single candidate has left the House without a permanent speaker for more than a week after Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) was removed from the job — paralyzing the chamber even with another government funding deadline looming and a war breaking out in the Middle East.

After Jordan was nominated Friday, Republicans immediately held another vote within the conference, also a secret ballot, on whether they would support him as the nominee on the floor. The aim was to see if Jordan would be able to win with at least 217 Republicans to avoid the debacle that befell Scalise. In that second vote, Jordan received 152 yes votes and 55 no votes, while one lawmaker voted present.

Afterward, lawmakers were told they would reconvene Monday. Rep. Garland “Andy” Barr (R-Ky.) said Jordan asked for the weekend to win over more support ahead of a Monday floor vote.

“Who the speaker ultimately ends up being is less important to me than a functioning majority. That’s what I want members to keep in mind,” Barr said. “Steve wasn’t able to get there, so I’m hoping Jim can.”

Minutes after the House convened Friday morning, Republicans went into a closed-door session to consider proposed conference rule changes aimed at ensuring future nominees would have the support necessary to win the speakership in a floor vote. However, all the proposals were eventually withdrawn, according to three lawmakers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private session.

Complicating Jordan’s path, Scott announced Friday that he, too, would run for House speaker. The dean of the Georgia Republican delegation told reporters that he had “no intention” of launching a last-minute bid for speaker but said Republicans were not doing things “the right way.”

“We are in Washington to legislate, and I want to lead a House that functions in the best interest of the American people,” Scott wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, on Friday morning.

McCarthy — who supported Jordan for the speakership after he was ousted — said he was encouraging others to do the same, though he couched it with the fact that members needed to make their own decisions. In Friday’s conference meeting, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) again raised his proposal to vote to condemn last week’s motion to vacate McCarthy and renominate him for the speakership.

Many Republicans were cheering, according to people in the room, but McCarthy then approached the microphones and told the conference to support Jordan.

Someone tried to “make a motion to bring me back, and I just [said], ‘No, let’s not do that,’” McCarthy said after the meeting.

Jordan will spend the weekend calling allies to help him shore up support from 56 Republicans who did not vote for him in the conference.

Several Scalise supporters remain hesitant about voting for Jordan, particularly after Jordan did not give an immediate and full-throated endorsement of Scalise. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said Friday that he still had concerns about Jordan following his treatment of Scalise and didn’t want to “reward bad behavior.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), a staunch Scalise ally, said no pressure would change his mind to support Jordan on the floor next week. If Jordan couldn’t persuade people to follow him on something as basic as a speaker vote, Diaz-Balart argued, then it did not bode well for more complicated matters down the line like negotiating appropriations bills, the debt limit or national security issues.

“This is, frankly, I hate to say this, the simplest thing we do, right? And if you can’t get your own people to follow you on a very simple thing like this, then I think you have an issue,” he said.

Some vulnerable Republicans who represent districts President Biden won in 2020 were also nervous about what a Jordan speakership could mean for them electorally. Jordan is known nationally as one of Trump’s strongest allies, and Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) admitted Thursday night that recognition could hurt him in his district. But he also echoed a position some governing moderates have taken, which is that he would support Jordan because Republicans need a speaker to get back to legislative business.

“I have absolutely no objection” to Jordan becoming speaker, Rep. Marcus J. Molinaro (R-N.Y.) said. “No one cares about how we get there. They just want us to get back to governing.”

What isn’t helping Jordan in terms of garnering support is how his allies have behaved: They have threatened some of those vulnerable Republicans, telling them that if they didn’t vote for Jordan behind closed doors, they would get primary challenges in their elections, according to two people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal private conversations.

Another House Republican said those lawmakers who vote against Jordan on the second ballot may soon feel the wrath of “the Trump effect” unleashed on them to get them to bend toward Jordan. A Trump aide said the former president and his team are unlikely to be involved in whipping the vote — though they are tracking the status of the speaker’s race.

Asked about allegations that Jordan’s allies were threatening lawmakers who did not vote for Jordan, Russell Dye, a Jordan spokesman, said: “That is totally untrue.”

Concerns about Jordan’s past controversies also started to surface this week. The lawmaker has been accused by several Ohio State University wrestlers of knowing about sexual abuse allegations against the team’s doctor when he was a coach but doing nothing about it. An Ohio State independent investigation into the abuse did not make “conclusive determinations” about whether particular employees knew about the abuse by Richard Strauss, but a report issued later in 2019 said coaches did know.

Dye said in a statement this week that “Jordan never saw or heard of any abuse, and if he had, he would have dealt with it.”

The earliest the House could vote for speaker is Monday evening. Several Republicans were not in attendance at their conference Friday — because they were either physically no longer in Washington or because they were so angered by their own colleagues that they are now viewing these gathering as pointless — and it is unlikely the GOP will hold a vote with several absences. All week, Republicans publicly described their unproductive gatherings as “therapy sessions” or Festivus, a fictional holiday from the show “Seinfeld” that requires an airing of grievances.

Minutes after Jordan was chosen as speaker-designate, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said the House Freedom Caucus co-founder had now become the “chairman of the chaos caucus” and “an extremist extraordinaire.” Jeffries also pointed at Republicans who have back-channeling with Democrats about a bipartisan solution to electing a consensus speaker to step up and vote against Jordan on the floor.

“Republicans can continue to triple down on the chaos, the dysfunction and the extremism,” Jeffries said on the Capitol steps. “On the other hand, traditional Republicans can break away from the extremism, partner with Democrats on an enlightened, bipartisan path forward so we can end the recklessness.”

Paul Kane, Azi Paybarah, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff and Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.


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