Jordan loses first-time House Speaker vote as Republican infighting continues

Rep. Jim Jordan, an ultraconservative hardliner from Ohio, lost his bid for the presidency on Tuesday and delayed a second vote until Wednesday, extending a two-week battle that has paralyzed the chamber and exposed deep GOP divisions.

Mr. Jordan, the embattled co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, fell 17 votes short of the majority he would need to win as a determined bloc of mainstream Republicans rallied against him.

Mr Jordan had initially tried to force a second vote on Tuesday night but, struggling in the face of unrelenting opposition, called for an adjournment for the night and planned to hold the vote at 11am on Wednesday

“We will continue to work and we will get to the vote,” Mr. Jordan said.

The group of 20 GOP members was larger than previously known and included some influential members of the House. They included the president and several members of the powerful Appropriations Committee, as well as half a dozen Republicans from politically competitive districts won by President Biden.

Mr. Jordan’s loss underscored seemingly intractable differences within the party, as well as the near-impossible political math that led to the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as speaker two weeks ago and has so far thwarted Republican efforts to choose a successor.

With Republicans controlling the House with just four votes to spare, the small hard-right minority has repeatedly flexed its muscles to the consternation of the mainstream conservatives who make up the majority of the conference. The refusal of some of them to accept Mr. Jordan’s election was an unusual show of force by a group that more often seeks compromise and reconciliation.

But Tuesday’s vote also showed how sharply the GOP has veered to the right. Although Mr. Jordan failed to win a majority, 200 Republicans — including many of those more mainstream members — voted to give him the job that is second in line to the president. It was a remarkable show of support for Mr. Jordan, 59, who helped Mr. Trump try to overturn the 2020 election and used his power in Congress to defend the former president. Mr. Jordan has a long record of opposing the compromise that prompted the previous Republican speaker to label him a “legislative terrorist.”

Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, formally nominated Mr. Jordan, a former wrestling champion, on the floor Tuesday and praised his bruising style as a virtue. “Whether on the wrestling mat or in the boardroom, Jim Jordan is strategic, scrappy, tough and principled,” she said.

Before his loss, Mr Jordan said he was willing to force a runoff – “whatever it takes” – to win the presidency, and with his opponents’ names now on the record, right-wing activists have bombarded them with calls.

“The calls coming in are ridiculous,” said Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, who voted against Mr. Jordan in part because Mr. Jordan refused to say that President Biden had won the 2020 election. “They are in the hundreds, if not thousands, that come into every office right now.”

Many Republicans who voted against Mr. Jordan has vowed to stand up to the pressure, citing various concerns. Some members of the Appropriations Committee, which writes the government’s spending bills, are deeply distrustful of Mr. Jordan’s approach to spending and the kinds of cuts he has approved. Others were Republicans from swing districts where Mr. Trump’s brand is toxic. Others were left outraged by the way Mr. Jordan’s allies ousted Mr. McCarthy from the presidency, then refused to get behind Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the party’s No. 2 candidate, when he initially won a caucus for the nominee last week.

“I will not be pressured or intimidated,” promised Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, a member of the Appropriations Committee and one of those holding out against Mr. Jordan who voted for Mr. Scalise. He added: “I voted for the man who won the election.”

Mr. Scalise “won a straight conference vote against Jim Jordan,” said Representative John Rutherford of Florida, another appropriator who said he intended to continue voting against Mr. Jordan. “I think we’re going to have to find a consensus candidate now.”

The chaos in the House sparked renewed debate over whether to authorize Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina — the interim speaker whose role is primarily to hold elections for the president — to do the House’s business until the conflict is resolved. Lawmakers are increasingly worried about the impact of continuing without an elected president, including that Congress may not be able to act to support Israel as it wages war against Hamas.

Democrats were united Tuesday in voting for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader. Representative Pete Aguilar of California, the No. 3 Democrat, nominated Mr. Jeffries with a fiery speech against Mr. Jordan. He accused the Ohio Republican of “inciting violence in this chamber,” a reference to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol — extremely harsh language about another lawmaker rarely heard on the House floor and rarely during a nomination speech for speaker.

Mr. Aguilar presented a strong case against Mr. Jordan, calling him “the architect of the nationwide abortion ban, a vocal pro-choice denier and instigator of sedition.” It contained the policy argument Democrats were prepared to make against Republicans for accepting Mr. Jordan, after a show of disarray that some in the GOP already worried would cost them their House majority.

Amid the chaos, at least one Republican woman said she was heading for the exit. Representative Debbie Lesko of Arizona, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said in a statement announcing her retirement from the House that, “Right now, Washington is broken; it’s hard to do anything.”

At a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday night, Mr. Jeffries urged Republicans to nominate another candidate.

“There are many good men and women on the Republican side in the aisle who are qualified to be speaker of the House,” Mr. Jeffries said. “There is no circumstance where Jim Jordan is one of them.”

Tuesday’s vote only fueled bitter infighting in Republican ranks. Bad blood between Mr. Jordan’s camp and Mr. Scalise was particularly obvious.

After his defeat, Mr. Jordan met privately with Mr. Scalise to ask for his help in rallying votes, but received no such promise to do so, according to a person familiar with the conversation. A spokeswoman for Mr. Scalise denied that he refused to help Mr. Jordan, but Mr. Scalise’s supporters remain angry at the way Mr. Jordan’s supporters refused to support Louisiana.

Right after he lost on the floor of the House, Mr. Jordan held a series of meetings with the holdouts, finding himself in a deeply uncomfortable situation. For a lawmaker whose approach has been to demand ideological purity from his party’s leaders, Mr. Jordan now needs to negotiate with some of the establishment Republicans who his supporters consider a corrupt “cartel,” as elected leaders in Washington are sometimes called.

Mr. Jordan is not known as a skilled legislator or deal maker; in 16 years in Congress, he sponsored no legislation that became law.

Four of Mr. Jordan’s critics were from the New York delegation, which helped give Republicans a majority in the House last year.

Representative Anthony D’Esposito of New York released a public statement outlining a number of demands, including overhauling state and local tax credits, known as SALT, a top priority for the delegation.

“I want a speaker who understands the unique needs of Long Island,” wrote Mr. D’Esposito. “Reinstating the SALT deduction, preserving funding to support 9/11 victims, and investing in critical infrastructure are our priorities.”

He contributed to the reporting Catie Edmondson, Annie Carney, Carl Hulse, Kayla Guo and Robert Jimison.

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