Trump-backed Jim Jordan secures GOP nomination for speaker amid party chaos

Right-wing firebrand beats challenger Austin Scott by 124 votes to 81 in secret ballot

Eric Garcia,Gustaf Kilander
Friday 13 October 2023 18:13 EDT

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Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH) has secured a majority of the GOP votes for speaker to grasp the nomination but he was unable to reach the 217 votes he needs from his caucus to win a vote of the full House.

House Republicans will now leave Washington after two internal votes. Mr Jordan, a longtime right-wing firebrand and favourite of the conservative grassroots, will have to win enough votes to get the gavel on the floor of the House. With only 221 votes in the Republican conference, he can only afford to lose four votes.

Mr Jordan beat challenger Rep Austin Scott (R-GA) by 124 votes to 81 for Mr Scott on Friday afternoon. Mr Scott is reported to not actually want to be speaker and observers say the vote for him indicates the significant part of the party which would be uncomfortable with him as speaker.

The current chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr Jordan is an ally of former president Donald Trump. Mr Jordan played a key role in Mr Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

A co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, Mr Jordan has a thin legislative record and spent much of his years in Congress agitating against leadership, playing a key role in the resignation of former House speaker John Boehner and the 2013 government shutdown.

The GOP is going through several internal votes to avoid battling it out in public in the chamber. Since the votes are secret, it’s difficult for Mr Jordan to convince those who vote against him.

“I want to go as soon as we can, but we need all the members,” the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, Rep Scott Perry (R-PA), told reporters.

When asked by The Independent how confident he was that Mr Jordan could take the gavel, he said, “Jim Jordan's going to be the speaker. That's how confident I am”.

Rep Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), a former Democrat, was asked by The Independent if he was concerned that there's going to have to be multiple rounds on the floor.

He said: “Hopefully we don't do that. That's the point of having multiple rounds in caucus.”

Rep Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said “we're giving him time to work the votes”.

On the second internal ballot on Friday night, Mr Jordan received 152 yes votes to 55 no votes and one voting present. That’s compared to just eight Republicans who voted to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

Rep Dan Bishop (R-NC), a Jordan supporter and rightwinger in the party, insisted to The Independent that he was “very” confident that Mr Jordan would be able to get to 217.

“Look, I think it's been a long process of dealing with the transition in the Republican Party – it's complicated – a lot of people are still upset with a variety of occurrences over the course of this Congress. But the sense in that room was palpable that we've crested and are moving in a new direction,” he added.

“It's a complicated process and requires extraordinarily high levels of trust,” Mr Bishop emphasized. “More important people than me have said today ... that Jim Jordan is going to be the next [speaker].”

Rep Kat Cammack (R-FL) told reporters that Mr Jordan “has encouraged everyone who voted against him to approach him and work on the issues that they have”.

“But I will tell you there were people in the room who wanted a roll call – I for one certainly supported a roll call because I think it's unfair for someone to spend their weekend calling people in hopes that ‘Hey, you may be against me, you may be for me, I'm not quite sure’,” she added.

Rep Tim Burchett (R-TN) told The Independent that “when the grassroots gets engaged, you'll see an enormous amount of support for Jim Jordan”.

“I wish that they'd had a roll call vote so folks would know who to call,” he added.

Rep Ted Lieu (D-CA) said that Mr Jordan “is nowhere near 217 votes, so I'd be surprised if you [he] got it. But we shall see”.

All this comes after Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) gave up his attempt to become speaker after he beat Mr Jordan in the first internal ballot on nominating a candidate for speaker earlier this week by a vote of 113 to 99.

Mr Jordan is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and has a reputation in Congress as a rightwing hardliner and brawler. He may yet end up failing to get the votes he needs for a floor vote as the GOP divisions appear far from softening.

As the GOP has a very small majority, Mr Jordan can only lose four votes on the House floor, and a number of Republicans on the moderate end of the conference have already said they won’t back Mr Jordan even in a vote of the full chamber.

“I think he’s gonna have a math problem as well,” Rep Mike Garcia (R-CA) told Axios earlier on Friday and Rep Greg Murphy (R-NC) added that “it’s going to be hard” for Mr Jordan to become speaker.

A number of House Republicans were pushing for a floor vote to take place on Friday. Many Democrats are out of town, meaning that the threshold for Mr Jordan would decrease. Democrats told Punchbowl News that they would move to vacate the chair next week if a vote went ahead on Friday.

Supporters of Mr Scalise told the outlet that they would never back Mr Jordan. Mr Burchett said that it would probably take several rounds of voting on the floor to select a speaker.

Mr Burchett previously suggested that Mr Jordan can probably get the speakership after a couple of rounds on the floor. It took 15 rounds of voting for Mr McCarthy to take the gavel in January.

Mr McCarthy told CNN on Friday that Mr Jordan should take the fight to the floor if he can’t get to 217 on the internal ballot, but Mr Jordan has said that he wants 217 before heading to the full chamber.

Several House Republicans believe that the anti-Jordan coalition will cave if the vote is moved to the floor, according to Politico. Mr Jordan’s allies are reportedly eager to bring it to a floor vote.

Rep Ralph Norman (R-SC) said that it was likely that they wouldn’t get to 217 in the vote and it would “probably” take a few rounds on the floor.

Just before the GOP went in to have their internal vote on Friday, Rep Byron Donalds (R-FL) said the GOP should come to a decision in the room before heading to the House floor.

As Republicans were leaving Washington, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, whom Democrats nominated unanimously for their nominee as speaker, spoke on the House steps calling on Republicans to work with them.

“Republicans continue to triple down on the chaos, the dysfunction and extremism that has been visited upon the American people as a result of the House Republican civil war,” he said. “On the other hand, 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 doing the business of the American people and Democrats are ready, willing and able to get that done.”

Midway through the event, Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker who often could unify her fractured and divided caucus to pass multiple pieces of legislation during her two tenures leading the House, quietly exited, not taking questions from reporters.

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