Ohio’s Jordan the latest U.S. House GOP nominee for speaker after days of turmoil
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, speaks to reporters as House Republicans hold a caucus meeting at the Longworth House Office Building on Oct. 13, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — U.S. House Republicans on Friday put forward their second nominee this week for speaker, though lawmakers departed Capitol Hill for the weekend without unifying enough to hold a floor vote and with a highly uncertain outcome when they return.
Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan won the conference nomination in a closed meeting, defeating Georgia’s Austin Scott, who announced his bid shortly before the meeting began.
But Jordan is at least 50 votes shy of being able to win the speaker’s gavel during a floor vote and Republicans said they weren’t entirely sure he could secure the votes. That raises the strong possibility they will hit the two-week mark on Tuesday lacking a functional U.S. House of Representatives.
House Democrats also blasted Jordan as an extremist on Friday evening, pointing out he refused to certify the 2020 election results and linking him to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Jordan, a founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus and the aggressive chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has been backed by former President Donald Trump in his campaign for speaker; Jordan has said he had nothing to do with the Capitol insurrection.
Scott said following the second ballot that he has endorsed Jordan for speaker and that his fellow Republicans should accept the process is to now back Jordan on the floor.
“This is not about Jim Jordan. It’s not about Steve Scalise. It’s not about Austin Scott,” he said, referring to himself in the third person and to Rep. Steve Scalise, the first nominee picked by Republicans earlier in the week. “This is about the United States of America and having a speaker in the House.”
Scott, who was publicly a candidate for speaker for less than four hours, said his frustration was not with Jordan, but with the people who refused to vote for Scalise after Republicans nominated him on Wednesday.
Scott launched his campaign against Jordan to have an “an honest debate about different issues and things that needed to be sorted out.”
“I didn’t have prep time, or a whip list, or make phone calls asking for support,” Scott said. “I never even told the Georgia delegation I was running, because I didn’t have time. I was also trying to get in touch with my wife.”
Scott eventually did talk with his wife and she replied “go for it,” he said.
Jordan vs. Scott
House Republicans voted first whether to nominate Jordan or Scott, a 124-84 vote.
After Jordan won the nomination, a second ballot asked Republicans if they would support him on the floor. That ballot came back with 152 yes votes and 55 no votes, according to Florida Rep. Kat Cammack. The victor will need 217 votes on the floor.
Jordan plans to work through the weekend to get the votes he needs to become speaker, but Cammack conceded the process could devolve into exactly what happened with Scalise this week.
“The fact remains that you have got a very, very thin margin,” Cammack said. “And he’s going to have to basically get all of those (no votes), including some of those people who swore up and down that they never would support him. So they have to really get into those weeds.”
The House returns at 6 p.m. Eastern on Monday, though no votes have been scheduled.
Turmoil as Scalise drops out
The speaker nomination vote came just two days after the party elected Louisiana’s Scalise as their nominee. But he withdrew Thursday evening after failing to get commitments for the 217 votes needed to win a floor vote.
“I did not recommend that Steve Scalise dropped out of the race. I think there were tactics that he could have used to get there,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota.
“But listen, I respect Steve Scalise. His decision, he felt like remaining in the race was more likely to divide the conference than to unify it right now,” Johnson said. “I would tell you, Jim Jordan has the best chance to unify this conference of any other leader we’ve got.”
Johnson delivered the nomination speech for Jordan on Friday.
“Jim Jordan is gonna give us the best opportunity to get things done during the 118th Congress. This is an unruly bunch,” Johnson said.
Rep. Frank Lucas of Oklahoma nominated Scott.
Florida Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, who opposes Jordan, said it’s not personal, but he questions whether Jordan can get his supporters to follow him on legislative deals if he couldn’t get them to back Scalise when he was the speaker nominee.
“He supported Scalise and yet the folks that are his closest group, he couldn’t get them to follow him,” Díaz-Balart said.
“This is not trying to figure out how to negotiate appropriation bills, how to deal with the debt limit, how to deal with national security issues,” Díaz-Balart said. “This is, frankly, I hate to say this, kind of the simplest thing we do.”
“And if you can’t get your own people to follow you on a very simple thing like this then I think you have an issue of leadership,” Díaz-Balart added.
Díaz-Balart also said he thinks Jordan has a numbers problem and likely cannot get the backing he needs to win on the floor.
“My issue here is very simple,” Díaz-Balart said. “I think it’s a very difficult math equation for him to overcome. I think he clearly deserves the opportunity to try to figure out how we can move forward. And let’s see where that goes.”
No speaker since Oct. 3
The House has been without a speaker for nearly two weeks after eight House Republicans and Democrats voted to remove California Rep. Kevin McCarthy from office.
Internal disagreements about the direction of the House Republican Conference and years of personal grievances have prevented the group from unifying around a candidate since then.
Scalise called together his fellow lawmakers twice on Thursday, once to try to coalesce everyone around him as their nominee and a second time to bow out of the race.
House Republicans again gathered behind closed doors Friday morning to debate whether they should change their internal party rules to require a speaker nominee to, in a closed conference meeting, garner the 217 votes needed to win on the floor before holding a vote in full view of the American people.
They once again decided to keep party rules as they are, requiring a simple majority of the conference to vote for a nominee for speaker.
They broke for lunch and then huddled again Friday afternoon to hear from Jordan, who lost to Scalise in conference earlier this week, and Scott.
Until Republicans elect a speaker, the House will remain at a standstill with five weeks until a mid-November funding deadline and as war rages in Israel and Ukraine.
Jordan, 59, was a member of the Ohio House of Representatives from 1995 to 2000 before moving to the state’s Senate from 2001 to 2006. He was sworn in as a member of Congress in 2007.
He is chair of the Judiciary Committee and is one of the party’s leading critics of the Biden administration and Democrats in general. But he would need to step aside as chairman if elected speaker.
Scott, 53, was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1997 to 2010 before being sworn in as a member of Congress in 2011.
Scott is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House Armed Services Committee and House Committee on Agriculture.
With the Republican stalemate dragging on, several members of the party have begun discussing voting to give Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry of North Carolina the authority to bring up bills and resolutions on the floor.
The role of speaker pro tem, established after 9/11 to ensure continuity of government, has been broadly debated by experts and lawmakers since McCarthy was removed as speaker.
Some have argued that the speaker pro tem should have more authority than McHenry has been exercising, while a House procedure expert said during an interview Thursday the role was meant to be limited to a caretaker for the institution who facilitates the election of the next speaker.
Vote next week?
Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma said Jordan still has several members to convince before taking the vote to the floor.
“When you can only lose four and you’ve got 55 saying no, that’s big,” Hern said. “(Jordan’s) asked everybody to come forward over the next few days. And right now it looks like we’re gonna be adjourned and vote on Tuesday.”
Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon said “a bipartisan path is going to be the only way out.”
McCarthy, when asked if he was concerned about the current attendance problem, said he was “worried about the small majority.”
“You see how eight can partner with all the Democrats and cause all sorts of chaos,” McCarthy said.
Florida’s Anna Paulina Luna said Republicans shouldn’t be going home for the weekend.
“We should not be leaving town. We have no speaker, we should not be out,” she said.
When asked why the Republicans decided to return home for the weekend, Johnson said “There are lots of concerns about attendance. I think you just get a lot of funerals and weddings scheduled on Saturday. This is a human element.”
Democrats blast Jordan, call for moderates to join them
Late Friday afternoon, just as Republicans were exiting their meeting, House Democratic leaders rallied against Jordan and urged Republicans to take a bipartisan path.
Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California tied Jordan to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and called him unfit for leadership.
“The House Republican civil war continues to rage on, miring the Congress in chaos, dysfunction and extremism,” Jeffries said. “House Republicans have chosen to triple down.”
“House Republicans have selected as their nominee to be speaker of the people’s House the chairman of the chaos caucus, a defender in a dangerous way of dysfunction and extremist extraordinaire.”
Jordan, a close ally of former President Donald Trump who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results, represents a dangerous element of the Republican Party, Clark said.
House Republicans who voted for Jordan for speaker were “siding with an insurrectionist against our democracy,” she said.
The Democratic leaders didn’t explicitly call for Republicans to support their candidate for speaker, Jeffries, but said moderate Republicans should work with them on the issues facing the chamber.
“Traditional Republicans can break away from the extremism, partner with Democrats on an enlightened, bipartisan path forward so we can end the recklessness and get back to work doing the business of the American people,” Jeffries said, a theme he’s voiced repeatedly all week.
Jacob Fischler contributed to this report.
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