Rep. Jim Jordan couldn’t muster enough votes to be elected speaker on his first try Tuesday, as 20 GOP lawmakers voted for someone other than the Ohio Republican.
But he’s expected to keep going and try to woo holdouts as former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., did in January during his epic 15-round, four-day floor battle for the gavel.
Jordan can only lose three votes in the early going, though his slim cushion should get a little bigger when Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., returns as early as Tuesday evening. Prior to the votes, Jordan wouldn’t comment on how long the process might take.
“We just need to get a speaker today,” Jordan said.
Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., a Jordan ally, said he expected a second round of balloting Tuesday, but that may be it for the first day of voting.
“There’ll be a second vote and the number will go up,” Massie said, expecting Jordan to ultimately prevail. “There may be rounds tomorrow, but I think there’ll just be two rounds today and I think it’ll be a very strong showing with improvement in the second round.”
The House recessed subject to the call of the chair after the first vote, however, and Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., told reporters that Jordan has some more work to do to convince his colleagues.
Republicans who initially denied Jordan the gavel on Monday included vulnerable GOP lawmakers from the more centrist wing of the party; members opposed to his tactics for securing the gavel; and those who continued to support McCarthy or Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., Jordan’s early rival for the job. Some had expressed displeasure with Jordan’s alleged hardball tactics in pushing Scalise to drop out and flip holdouts.
Jordan had won over some skeptics on Monday and Tuesday, including defense hawks who initially balked at his government funding plans, other Scalise allies and centrists in tough races representing districts President Joe Biden carried in 2020.
Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., representing a Biden district and a seat that Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Tilt Republican, announced earlier Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he’d back Jordan. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, who won her 2020 race by six votes, had been undecided as of Monday night, but ultimately backed Jordan on the first ballot.
House Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik gave the first-round nominating speech for Jordan.
“Jim is the voice of the American people who have felt voiceless for far too long,” Stefanik, R-N.Y., said on the floor. “He is a mentor, a worker and, above all, he is a fighter and the American people know, we know, that Jim Jordan is a winner on behalf of the American people.”
But Democrats have been pounding Jordan’s record on advocating for deep spending cuts, tough abortion restrictions and support for former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that he really won the 2020 election.
“A vote today to make the architect of a nationwide abortion ban, a vocal election denier and an insurrection insider to the speaker of this House would be a terrible message to our country and our allies,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar of California said on the floor in opposition to Jordan as he instead nominated Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
‘I voted for the guy that won the election’
Other Republicans continued to harbor second thoughts.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said he remained opposed to Jordan after his first-ballot vote for Scalise, saying he has no intention of changing his tune and won’t be pressured to do so.
“What happened with me is I voted for the guy that won the election,” he said, in reference to Scalise first securing the GOP nomination last week before he bowed out due to opposition.
Other GOP votes for Scalise over Jordan were Tony Gonzales, R-Fla.; John Rutherford, R-Fla.; Mike Kelly, R-Pa.; Steve Womack, R-Ark.; Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; and Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas.
Rep. Don Bacon, a Nebraska Republican whose district supported Biden, voted for McCarthy, as did Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore., a Biden district Republican whose seat is rated a Toss-up; Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., another Toss-up seat; Jen Kiggans, R-Va., representing a Tilt Republican seat; Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.; and Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.
Several of the Scalise and McCarthy backers included House Appropriations Committee members and lawmakers who cited concerns with Jordan’s spending plans. Kiggans said she opposed Jordan out of worry about a government shutdown and his plan to leverage potential 1 percent appropriations cuts next spring, which would hit the defense budget.
“I’m not willing to risk not paying our servicemen and women who we ask so much of on a daily basis and their families. That’s my job,” said Kiggans, a former Navy helicopter pilot who represents Navy veterans, with the world’s largest naval base in the area of her Virginia district.
Womack and Granger wouldn’t comment on their voting decisions leaving the floor on Tuesday afternoon.
A group of Republicans from Long Island — Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, whose district is considered a Toss-up; Andrew Garbarino; and Nick LaLota — voted for one of their own: former Rep. Lee Zeldin, who also represented Long Island before he lost a gubernatorial race last year. New Yorkers including D’Esposito have cited concerns about a speaker candidate looking out for their more moderate, New York constituents.
Other holdouts included Rep. Jake Ellzey, R-Texas, who voted for Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif. Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., voted for Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn. Rep. John James, R-Mich., voted for Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla. Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., voted for Massie.
Some of the holdouts suggested after the vote that it was time to move on from Jordan to a new speaker nominee.
“I’ll be voting for Scalise unless we can come up with a consensus candidate, which I hope we can eventually do,” Rutherford said. “I kind of like Patrick McHenry so we’ll see.”
But others left the door open to changing their votes, both for and against Jordan. A drawn-out series of floor votes could see lawmakers shift both ways, complicating Jordan’s project.
James, a freshman in a Tilt Republican seat, said “stand by” when asked if he could support Jordan in a new ballot and added he’d vote for people who prioritize his district’s needs.
Chavez-DeRemer said in a statement that she’d reassess where things stand as the process continues, though she also called for lawmakers to expand McHenry’s power to govern which would suggest a drawn-out fight.
A Scalise ally who supported Jordan on the first ballot, Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, said he wanted to think about his future votes. “I just want to gather the facts and me and my team will talk about it,” he said.
Scalise and McCarthy each voted for Jordan, earning applause from their colleagues.
Speaker pro tempore push
The initial floor defeat means the speaker job remains vacant two weeks after eight GOP lawmakers and all Democrats moved to oust McCarthy as the House’s leader, though Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., remains in a limited caretaker role.
Interest in expanding his powers could rise as the speaker race goes on. Kelly, another Scalise backer who opposed Jordan, has offered a resolution to formally give McHenry the ability to bring bills to the floor.
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., another Biden district Republican and a leader of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, expressed interest in backing the resolution, according to a GOP source; a spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Fitzpatrick backed Jordan on the first ballot.
House Rules ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said members on his side might consider backing Kelly’s resolution — which would give McHenry expanded powers through Nov. 17, the last day before the government could partially shut down again if another continuing resolution isn’t enacted. But he declined to comment on what, if any demands, they might make in exchange for their votes.
“We have a fast-approaching deadline where the government will shut down again,” McGovern said of the Nov. 17 stopgap funding expiration. “There needs to be a speaker or if not a speaker, a speaker pro tem who actually can bring bills to the floor.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what concessions it would take Jordan to flip GOP holdouts.
The deals that McCarthy cut — like allowing one member to force a vote on removing him — left his position largely to the whims of rank-and-file rebels and paved the way for his ouster as the first speaker to ever be removed from the position via motion to vacate.
Jordan’s allies continued to express confidence in his odds of ultimately securing the gavel.
“I think there’s all the reason in the world to think that Jim Jordan is going to be the next speaker,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said before the first-ballot vote. “A lot of people who are holding out are very reasonable people. They are concerned about how the institution is running. ….so they are less opposed to the idea of Jim Jordan [as] speaker and more concerned about how we can get this place back to work properly. That means there’s a path forward.”
David Lerman, Michael Macagnone and Ellyn Ferguson contributed to this report.