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Jordan out as GOP speaker nominee, new hopefuls vie for backing

Private Monday forum set before party votes Tuesday for new nominee

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, center, leaves the House floor after the third unsuccessful vote to elect a new speaker on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, center, leaves the House floor after the third unsuccessful vote to elect a new speaker on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans in a closed meeting Friday afternoon voted to end Rep. Jim Jordan’s speaker run hours after he lost a third ballot for the post on the House floor.

The vote, which sources said was 86-112 against the pick the conference made just a week earlier, opened the floodgates for new candidates. Reps. Kevin Hern, R-Okla.; Byron Donalds, R-Fla.; Jack Bergman, R-Mich.; Austin Scott, R-Ga.; and Pete Sessions, R-Texas, were among immediate entrants. Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn.; House Budget Chairman Jodey C. Arrington, R-Texas; Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pa.; and Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., were among those exploring a run.

Jordan said he would support the party’s next pick.

“I told the conference that I appreciated getting to work with everyone, to talk with everyone, and get to know members that I didn’t really know that well over the last three weeks, and that we need to come together and figure out who our speaker is going to be,” Jordan told reporters after the meeting.

In three roll call votes this week, Jordan saw his support fall shorter and shorter of the level needed to take the gavel. He could only lose four GOP votes and still win if all members were present and voting for someone, and 25 Republicans backed someone else on Friday. 

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New speaker candidates need to declare their intention to run by Sunday, according to multiple lawmakers leaving the GOP meeting. The conference is expected to go back behind closed doors Monday for a candidate forum and then vote Tuesday on what would be the party’s third nominee since the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month.

Weekend to reset

Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., told reporters his goal would be to have a speaker candidate on the floor Tuesday and elect a speaker by the end of next week. He said a weekend away from Washington in the meantime would be important and allow the House GOP to reset after a week of infighting.

But it won’t necessarily be a quiet weekend, as candidates immediately began to campaign. Emmer was making calls to members, according to a source familiar with his efforts.

Hern, who leads a large caucus of conservatives called the Republican Study Committee, said leaving Friday’s meeting that he believed he could address members’ concerns about others putting personality ahead of policy. He also said he’d begin calling colleagues this weekend to gin up support.

“We’re at a different time in our delegation where we have a lot of freshmen, a lot of sophomore people are really looking for a different kind of leadership I believe,” said Hern, who was first elected in 2018.

Bergman said in a statement that he’s running and would serve no special interests in the job. “I feel confident I can win the votes where others could not,” he said.

Sessions, in a statement declaring his bid, cited his work for House Republicans’ campaign arm and chairing the Rules Committee.

From left, Reps. Tom Cole, R-Okla., Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and Steve Womack, R-Ark., look at their phones on the House floor during the vote to elect a new speaker of the House on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Some candidates had cropped up as options, though mainly for those aiming to show opposition to official candidates, over the last couple of weeks. Scott challenged Jordan in a conference vote last week and while he fell short, he got 81 votes in the one-on-one race. And Donalds, a House Freedom Caucus member, has won votes on the floor to be speaker from detractors of the conference’s chosen candidate, including this week.

Arrington, who is “seriously considering” a bid for speaker, said the country would be better if it ran like his home state of Texas. He and other hopefuls like Sessions could benefit from backing of the delegation’s 25 Republicans.

“Now how somebody gets to 217 in this life and not in heaven is a good question for all of us to ask,” Arrington said, referring to the total needed if the entire House votes.

That’s the challenge in a deeply divided GOP conference still reeling from eight members’ choice to join with Democrats and oust McCarthy in a historic vote on Oct. 3.

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., said he wasn’t sure if the conference’s next nominee could avoid the fates of Jordan and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., who beat Jordan for the conference’s backing but ended his bid before going to the floor for a vote.

“It depends on who they are,” Garcia said. “There’s a lot of angst and personal things with the nominees that we have had so far that may not be resonant with other candidates in the future.”

Rep. Thomas Massie, a Jordan ally, said he worried the new nominee could face the same fate as McCarthy with a rogue, hardline wing of the party holding its ability to remove a speaker over their head. Only Jordan could have kept the right flank in line and get them to make compromises, he said.

End to Jordan’s bid

Jordan allies had supported the vote on Friday, believing it would either end his run or, they hoped, empower him to keep holding floor votes and escalate his public candidacy, according to Massie.

Jordan had well over a majority of Republicans’ votes on the third ballot Friday, but that backing was looking shakier and shakier. Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., said he thought pressure was rising on Jordan to drop out.

“Jim’s a good man, but when the votes aren’t there, the votes aren’t there,” he said.

Several of the Republicans who voted against Jordan multiple times this week said there was nothing he could say or do to win most of them over.

“Obviously you see, none of us are budging. The number’s getting bigger, it’s going the other way,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., said Friday. “Look, there’s nothing he can offer us because there is nothing we want.”

Some Jordan supporters had remained steadfast. Seven of the eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy signed a letter on Friday saying they’d accept censure, suspension or removal from the GOP conference to quell colleagues’ frustrations and help elect Jordan. But it wasn’t clear they’d be as open to punishment to aid GOP unity around a different candidate. 

“If what these holdouts need is a pound of our flesh, we’re willing to give it to them in order to see them elect Jim Jordan as speaker,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said before Friday’s vote ended Jordan’s run. 

David Lerman, Paul M. Krawzak and Michael Macagnone contributed to this report.

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