Conservative Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio is bringing the House back to the floor Tuesday to vote on whether he will succeed ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy and finally end the chamber’s prolonged paralysis amid deep GOP divisions.
Jordan picked up key support from holdouts heading into Tuesday’s vote, which comes two weeks after McCarthy’s historic ousting, and his allies are bullish that the Ohio Republican can corral the 217 votes he needs to be elected speaker. But it’s not clear whether Jordan can be the one who unifies the fractured House Republican conference, with some lawmakers still opposed.
That’s because Jordan can only afford to lose four Republicans to be elected speaker, which requires a majority of the full House. The slim margin is what led to McCarthy’s removal at the hands of a band of eight GOP rebels – and a small group of House Republicans unhappy with Jordan could block his ascension, too.
But Jordan and his allies have made significant headway over the past several days, with the Ohio Republican pitching skeptical lawmakers one on one – and his allies outside Congress attacking the holdouts and threatening political consequences if they stand against a favorite of the Trump-aligned GOP base.
“We need to get a speaker tomorrow,” Jordan said Monday after leaving a closed-door GOP conference meeting. “The American people deserve to have their Congress, their House representatives, working. And you can’t have that happen until you get a speaker.”
Jordan’s allies believe the number of GOP opponents has shrunk from the 55 who voted Friday against supporting him on the floor to a number in the teens. One GOP lawmaker suggested the remaining detractors totaled fewer than 10.
On Monday, several key holdouts said they would support Jordan, including Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri, who had previously called Jordan a “nonstarter.”
“I feel like he can bring together everybody, from the moderates to the ultra conservatives, and Republicans across the spectrum,” said Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York. “The bottom line is we’ve got to get back to work. We don’t have any time here to waste.”
Even if Jordan doesn’t have the votes on the initial ballot, he could force additional votes, just as McCarthy did in the 15 rounds it took him to be elected speaker in January.
Until the House selects a speaker, it is unable to consider legislation, such as passing additional military aid to Israel or government funding, with the threat of a shutdown just a month away thanks to McCarthy’s six-week stopgap spending deal that prompted the move against him.
Jordan has skeptics who could publicly oppose him, including GOP lawmakers still angry that a small group of Republicans forced out McCarthy and then opposed the speaker nomination of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who initially defeated Jordan inside the GOP conference, 113 to 99.
“I can’t get past the fact that a small group in our conference violated the rules to get rid of Kevin, and then blocked Steve,” said Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska. “You don’t have a process where I play by the rules and these other people can’t and then they get what they want. That’s not American. Americans want fair play and rule of law.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida said he planned to continue to support Scalise on the floor. “You can remember we had an election; the guy who won was the guy who I was with,” he said Monday, while warning that any attempts to pressure him would backfire.
Several Republicans – including from districts won by President Joe Biden – declined to say Monday evening whether they would vote for Jordan on the floor.
Jordan’s backers have urged the conference to unify around him – even those who went after McCarthy and opposed Scalise.
Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania argued that those angry shouldn’t take it out on Jordan because he supported both McCarthy and Scalise.
“Feelings are hurt,” Perry said. “But Jim didn’t have anything to do with that. So they need to assign their ire, if you will, to those who they think deserve it – but certainly not Jim Jordan.”