WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Rep. Jim Jordan failed again Wednesday on a crucial second ballot to become House speaker, the hard-fighting ally of Donald Trump losing even more GOP colleagues who are refusing to give him the gavel.
Next steps were highly uncertain as angry, frustrated lawmakers looked at other options. A bipartisan group of lawmakers floated an extraordinary plan — to give the interim speaker-pro-tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., more power to reopen the immobilized House and temporarily conduct routine business.
What was clear was that Jordan’s path to become House speaker was almost certainly lost. He was opposed by 22 Republicans, two more than he lost in first round voting the day before.
The House came to another abrupt standstill, stuck now 15 days without a speaker, a position of power second in line to the presidency, since the sudden ouster of Kevin McCarthy. Republicans are upset and exhausted by the infighting, the vote for House speaker once a formality in Congress having devolved into another bitter showdown for the gavel.
Ahead of the morning vote, Jordan, the combative Judiciary Committee chairman, made an unusual plea for party unity.
“We’ve been at this two weeks,” Jordan said at the Capitol, almost daring his colleagues to put forward the alternative proposal. “American people deserve to have their government functioning. Let’s get an answer.”
But as the rollcall got underway, he lost more than he gained, picking up three backers, but facing more detractors.
The holdouts added to a surprisingly large and politically diverse group of 20 Republicans who had rejected Jordan’s nomination the day before, many resenting the hardball tactics seeking to enforce support, and viewing the Ohio congressman as too extreme for the powerful position of House speaker, second in line to the presidency.
With Republicans in majority control 221-212, Jordan must pick up most of his GOP foes to win. Wednesday’s tally, with 199 Republicans voting for Jordan and 212 for Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, left no candidate with a clear majority, as the 22 Republicans voted for someone else.
One new Jordan opponent, Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, explained his vote. “I just didn’t think he was going to get there. I think it’s time to move on.”
Bipartisan groups of lawmakers have been floating ways to operate the House by giving greater power to McHenry or another temporary speaker. The House had never ousted its speaker before McCarthy.
The novel concept of boosting the interim speaker’s role was gaining favor with a pair of surprising high-profile Republicans: Former GOP speakers Newt Gingrich and John Boehner.
Gingrich said while he likes Jordan, he has “no faith” the nominee can get much beyond the 200 votes he won in the first vote.
“We can’t sit around and suck our thumbs and hope the world will wait until the House Republicans get their act together,” Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on his show.
Boehner reposted Gingrich’s views saying, “I agree,” on social media.
The two men have deep experience with the subject. Both were chased to early retirement by threats of ouster from right-flank insurgents like those who toppled McCarthy.
“The Republicans are unable to function right now,” said Jeffries. He said talks would “accelerate” between Democrats and Republicans on alternative plans.
In nominating Jordan, veteran Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said it was time to end the upheaval that he had warned against with McCarthy’s sudden ouster.
“We have a chance today to end that chaos, end that uncertainty,” Cole said.
He said that Jordan was “not a shrinking violet” but someone who could lead the House.
Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar noted that Jeffries continues to win more votes and is the best choice to move the country forward.
“The country cannot afford more delays and more chaos,” Aguilar said.
Jordan had relied on Trump’s backing and oustide groups, but it was not enough.
Flexing their independence, the holdouts are a mix of pragmatists — ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing, to newer lawmakers from districts where voters back home prefer President Joe Biden to Trump.
Some Republicans resent being pressured by Jordan’s allies and say they are being threatened with primary opponents if they don’t support him as speaker. Others are simply upset at the way the whole process has dragged out.
“Jim Jordan will be a great speaker,” Trump had said Tuesday said outside a courthouse in Manhattan, where he is facing business fraud charges. “I think he’s going to have the votes soon, if not today, over the next day or two.”
Jordan has been a top Trump ally, particularly during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by the former president’s backers who were trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.
The political climb has been steep for Jordan, the combative Judiciary Committee chairman and a founding member of the right-flank Freedom Caucus. He is known more as a chaos agent than a skilled legislator, raising questions about how he would lead. Congress faces daunting challenges, risking a federal shutdown at home if it fails to fund the government and fielding Biden’s requests for aid to help Ukraine and Israel in the wars abroad.
First elected in 2006, Jordan has few bills to his name from his time in office. He also faces questions about his past. Some years ago, Jordan denied allegations from former wrestlers during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University who accused him of knowing about claims they were inappropriately groped by an Ohio doctor. Jordan has said he was never aware of any abuse.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
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