Rep. Jim Jordan won the Republican nomination to lead the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, but the hardline conservative appeared to be well short of the support he would need to seize the speaker’s gavel.
Successive closed-door votes left Jordan with the backing of a majority of House Republicans, but still shy of the 217 votes he would need to win the job.
Republicans then said they would go home for the weekend, ensuring the House would remain without a leader until at least Monday when a vote was reportedly scheduled for 6 p.m.
Republican infighting has left the House paralyzed for close to two weeks, as lawmakers have deadlocked over a successor to Kevin McCarthy, who was forced out by a small group of Republican insurgents on Oct. 3.
In an initial vote, Jordan won the endorsement over Austin Scott, a Georgia lawmaker who has kept a relatively low profile in his 12 years in Congress. The vote was 124-81, according to a Republican aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But Jordan did not pick up much more support in a second round of voting, which he won 152-55, according to lawmakers, meaning that about one in four House Republicans cast a ballot purely against Jordan.
That left him short of the votes he would need to become speaker, a powerful role second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
Republicans control the chamber by a narrow 221-212 margin, meaning they can afford to lose no more than four votes if Democrats vote against him, as they are expected to do.
Jordan narrowly lost the nomination on Wednesday to Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican who was seen as the heir apparent to McCarthy. But Scalise abandoned his bid on Thursday after it became clear he could not consolidate Republicans behind him.
Some Republicans said their problems ran deeper than a simple lack of leadership.
“There’s a lack of trust. There’s a lack of transparency,” said Representative Kat Cammack. “That’s what we need to address before we can even really get to the speaker.”
Jordan, who serves as House Judiciary Committee chair, tormented Republican leaders for years as a vocal advocate for the party’s right wing. He has the endorsement of McCarthy and former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“I think I can unite the conference, I think I can tell the country what we’re doing and why it matters,” Jordan told reporters before the vote.
Without a speaker, the House is at a deadlock as war expands in the Middle East, Russia continues to pound Ukraine and the government faces a Nov. 17 partial shutdown deadline without additional funding from Congress.
Republicans have been hoping to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing spectacle that occurred in January, when hardline conservatives forced McCarthy to endure 15 floor votes over four days before winning the gavel.
Jordan backers said he would eventually be able to consolidate support even if he does not win in the first few rounds of voting. They said his confrontational style could help in negotiating with Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“We need someone who is tough, who’s smart and can negotiate in that room. I think Jim Jordan can do it,” said Representative Nicole Malliotakis.
But Jordan faced skepticism from those who were angry that his supporters had failed to unite behind Scalise.
“I just think that Steve got a raw deal,” said Representative Vern Buchanan.
While McCarthy was the first speaker in U.S. history ousted by a vote of the chamber, the last two Republicans to hold the job – John Boehner and Paul Ryan – also left under pressure from their right flanks.
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