House Republicans have cast aside Ohio congressman Jim Jordan as the party’s pick to be the next Speaker of the House after he failed to gain support from a majority of the chamber on three separate ballots this past week.
Mr Jordan, a right-wing firebrand whose history of bomb-throwing and obstruction made his brand too toxic for a critical mass of moderate Republicans to stomach him as a replacement for former speaker Kevin McCarthy, lost a secret ballot election during a GOP conference meeting on Friday.
His candidacy for the speakership had been opposed by more than a dozen members on a first vote in the House chamber on Tuesday, with the ranks of his opponents growing on two subsequent roll-call votes, even as members who voted against him – and their staffers and family members – received abuse and death threats from people claiming to support Mr Jordan.
Earlier in the day, Mr Jordan once again failed to win a majority of the votes to become speaker of the House, with three Republicans from swing districts voting against him.
This came after he had delivered a defiant speech and press conference where he compared his bid to to Wright Brothers, Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier and the moon landing of 1969.
“I think people just realised he could not get to 217 and so it's time to find someone who can,” Rep Ken Buck (R-CO) told The Independent.
Mr Jordan’s exit came on the 17th day that the House of Representatives has not had a speaker after Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed a motion to vacate Mr McCarthy as speaker and several Republicans, along with ever Democrat, voted against him. In the aftermath, Republicans nominated House Majority Leader Steve Scalise to replace Mr McCarthy but many hardline conservatives opposed Mr Scalise’s bid and he removed himself from the running.
Rep Nancy Mace (R-SC), who voted to remove Mr McCarthy, decried Mr Jordan’s exit.
“I think it is bulls***,” she told The Independent. “They want to say that we have no plan, Jim Jordan was a good plan.”
Ms Mace criticised the fact that a large numbers of Republicans just voted for Mr Jordan on the floor and then voted to oust him in a secret ballot.
“They just knifed him in secret and in a backroom deal in the basement of the Capitol,” she said. “It’s disgusting.”
But Rep Mike Lawler (R-NY), a Republican from a swing district who opposed Mr Jordan on every ballot, said it was time to move on.
“I think the conference obviously spoke and Jim was gracious and accepting the results and stepping aside so that we can move forward,” he told The Independent. “Obviously, we'll be back on Monday. So any of the candidates that want to be considered will have announced by then and we'll hear what they have to say and make a decision.”
The decision by the House Republican conference will trigger a slew of new candidates running for the top job in the House of Representatives, where the GOP has a thin majority. Republicans have only 221 seats in a body of 435 seats, meaning they can only afford to lose five seats at any given moment.
The House has two vacancies at the moment, reducing the number of votes they can only lose to four. In addition, Republicans are staunchly divided, calling the differing factions the “Five Families.”
Rep Kevin Hern (R-OK) said he would be a qualified candidate for the job as chairman of the archconservative Republican Study Committee, a position many Republican luminaries including Mr Jordan and former vice president Mike Pence held.
“But I mean, listen, as RSC Chairman talking and listening to 176 members this entire year,” he told The Independent. “As part of the five families I've been in every meeting since November of last year with my counterparts.”
Conversely, Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania said he would consider throwing his hat in the ring.
“We had we had three great candidates, and now we're down to we got to find a new one,” Mr Meuser told The Independent.
Other names that have been floated are Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-TX) and Rep Byron Donalds (R-FL), according to Semafor.
“I think that Kevin and Steve and Jim all have this institutional group that supports them, and then the groups that oppose them,” Mr Buck said. In the same way he said other candidates would not have that same institutional opposition.
The end of Mr Jordan’s bid raises significant questions as Congress needs to pass a spending bill in less than a month to keep the US government open. Members of both parties also hope to pass an aid package to assist Israel after a deadly attack from Hamas two weeks ago triggered a military campaign in Gaza.
But legislation cannot pass the House without a speaker. House Republicans scuttled a plan to empower House Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry on Thursday that likely would have required the votes from Democrats.
Shortly after the announcement, Rep Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat from Texas, was overheard in the elevator laughing about Mr Jordan, a former college championship wrestler who frequently antagonised his Democratic colleagues.
“I didn’t think he could wrestle his way,” to the top, Ms Garcia told people.
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