House GOP support for Jim Jordan of Ohio to be the next speaker climbed on Monday. But he still appeared short of the votes needed to win the election on the floor.
Republicans began returning to Washington on Monday night ahead of a floor vote scheduled for noon Tuesday. They huddled behind closed doors in their latest effort to elect a new speaker after a two-week scramble that has frozen most legislative activities.
The fly-in night meeting was lightly attended. But based on commentary from lawmakers coming and going, it was clear that Jordan, who can only afford to lose four votes and still get elected, has some more work to do.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said he will not vote for Jordan and will instead vote for Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican who ended his bid for the job last week after it became clear he was short of votes.
“If anybody’s trying to get my vote, the last thing you want to do is try to intimidate or pressure me because then I close out entirely,” Diaz-Balart, the top GOP foreign aid appropriator, said. “So that’s where I’m at.”
Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., also said he’d vote for Scalise on the floor. Kelly didn’t like the way things happened last week, with Scalise feeling pressure to drop out despite winning the initial conference election over Jordan.
“I love Jim Jordan. I think he’s great,” Kelly said. “I just don’t understand if it doesn’t go your way on the first vote how these people could go into the conference and talk about what a great team they have when they turn their back on exactly what we have.”
Kelly also circulated a resolution that would declare Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., the current speaker pro tempore, as an elected speaker pro tempore with expanded authorities to bring legislation to the floor at least until a new speaker is elected, but no later than Nov. 17 — the next deadline to avert a partial government shutdown.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., said he was currently a “no” on Jordan’s bid and that at least part of his concern was Jordan’s stance on the 2020 presidential election results. Buck voted to certify the results, while Jordan did not. But he said leaving Monday’s meeting that he was open-minded and planned to meet with Jordan again.
A secret-ballot vote among Republicans on Friday showed only 152 would back him in a floor vote for speaker, with 55 saying they’d oppose him.
Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., repeated his stance on Monday night that he’ll vote for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to regain his job, despite the former speaker’s endorsement of Jordan. Fellow Florida Republican John Rutherford said Friday in response to Jordan’s bid that he planned to vote for McCarthy, according to an interview that aired on C-SPAN.
Rep. Mike Lawler, a freshman representing the suburbs north of New York City, told CNN on Monday that he’d vote for McCarthy too. Lawler is among the most vulnerable Republicans, and his district backed President Joe Biden by over 10 percentage points in the 2020 election.
He’s not the only vulnerable GOP lawmaker with concerns. Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican whose district voted for Biden by over 6 percentage points in 2020, said he wouldn’t vote for Jordan on a first ballot but didn’t rule out voting for him on subsequent ballots. He said Jordan had grown and he must represent all Republicans in the job.
Voters in Rep. Anthony D’Esposito’s New York district backed Biden by nearly 15 points in 2020. D’Esposito said he was still on the fence about how he’ll vote on Tuesday and was planning to talk to other members from Long Island. But he said he had concerns about how the process had played out and that it was “less about Jim Jordan and more about getting government back to work.”
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, a second-term lawmaker who won her 2020 race by just 6 votes before widening her advantage last year, said she wasn’t convinced yet to back Jordan. “I think we still need conversations,” she said.
Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., told reporters she opposed forcing a floor vote before there’s clear consensus on a speaker and that she had concerns with alleged hardball tactics by Jordan.
“I truly believe these intimidation techniques … are not acceptable,” Spartz said. “I didn’t like what Kevin [McCarthy] did last time. And I hope Jim [Jordan] is going to change his views on that.”
Jordan’s lobbying did pay off with at least one of the vulnerable New Yorkers. Late Monday, Rep. Marc Molinaro posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the House needed to get back to work on Israel aid, among other things.
“Do Jim Jordan and I agree on everything? Of course not,” Molinaro wrote. ” But, he has assured me that my voice and the concerns of those I serve in Upstate New York will be heard. I will vote for Jim Jordan.”
The bloc of opposition emerged after momentum appeared to be shifting in Jordan’s direction earlier Monday with some key Republicans publicly backing him.
The group of GOP lawmakers initially queasy about a Jordan speakership included staunch supporters of Scalise’s bid for the gavel — which quickly fizzled last week due largely to opposition from Jordan backers — and defense hawks uneasy about Jordan’s government funding plans.
Jordan appeared to be quelling some concerns. Three influential defense hawks — Armed Services Chairman Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif., and Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas — pledged to back Jordan on Monday after hearing more about his stances on government spending.
McCaul said Jordan pledged support for an aid package covering Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region that would also carry domestic border security funding. Jordan has previously been skeptical of additional Ukraine funding.
Outlining his support, McCaul also said political games would only embolden U.S. foes and suggested Jordan could hold freewheeling GOP members in line.
“McCarthy couldn’t control the Freedom Caucus,” he said. “Jordan’s the only one that can.”
Along with Calvert, two other senior appropriators — Robert B. Aderholt of Alabama and Mark Amodei of Nevada — tossed their support behind Jordan on Monday, according to statements on X and comments to reporters.
So did some Scalise allies like Ann Wagner of Missouri and Vern Buchanan of Florida, who initially raised concerns about Jordan’s failure to give Scalise a fair shot at the gavel when he’d won a majority of the conference’s votes.
Another Biden district vulnerable lawmaker who’s also a defense hawk, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., is backing Jordan. He said a bit of a charm offensive on the Ohioan’s part has been paying dividends.
“He’s been having intimate conversations over the weekend with folks and talking them through the strategy, talking him through his platform, and it’s been successful,” Garcia said.
Republicans may also be reacting to heat from the right flank of the party that supports Jordan, an ally of former President Donald Trump and longtime agitator for hard-line conservative causes. Jordan was a founder of the House Freedom Caucus, though he’s transformed into a leadership-friendly McCarthy ally in recent years and gained the House Judiciary gavel.
‘Less than 15 rounds’
Even with holdouts remaining, Jordan appeared ready to test detractors’ appetite for blocking him in a high-stakes public setting on Tuesday.
“I felt good walking into the conference, I feel even better now,” Jordan said after the Monday night meeting. “We’ve got a few more people we’re going to talk to, listen to, and then we’ll have a vote tomorrow.”
Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., predicted this speaker election could take multiple rounds of voting on the floor, an echo of McCarthy’s 15 ballots to get the job in January.
“You wouldn’t expect anything less from him than a fight,” Hern said, “and that’s what he’s doing.”
For his part, Garcia predicted Jordan’s battle wouldn’t last as long as McCarthy’s.
“If we’re doing an over-under, I think it’ll be less than 15 rounds tomorrow,” Garcia said.
David Lerman, Paul M. Krawzak, Jessica Wehrman and Ellyn Ferguson contributed to this report.