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House Republicans reject Rep. Jim Jordan for speaker of the House, again

Temporary House leader Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., talks with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, as Republicans try to elect Jordan in a second ballot to be the new House speaker on Wednesday.
Alex Brandon
Temporary House leader Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., talks with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, as Republicans try to elect Jordan in a second ballot to be the new House speaker on Wednesday.

Updated October 18, 2023 at 3:03 PM ET

House Republicans once again voted to reject the nomination of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, to be the next speaker of the House.

Jordan lost a second vote in as many days as opposition to his nomination grew from 20 GOP defections to 22. It is unclear how Republicans will proceed as the House remains unable to conduct any business without an elected speaker. No more votes are scheduled for Wednesday, leaving the vacancy to drag on for yet another day.

The loss comes after Jordan spent the past 24 hours working behind closed doors to woo skeptics.

"We're working on it," Jordan told reporters ahead of the vote, even as it was clear that momentum for his effort to gain the gavel had shifted. After the vote, the House recessed as Republicans figure out the next step.

Members search for an alternative

Members have been discussing alternative plans for several days but so far none has materialized as a viable solution. A GOP source familiar with the plans tells NPR that there is a plan to introduce resolution to officially augment what Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry can do in the temporary role.

"After two weeks without a Speaker of the House and no clear candidate with 217 votes in the Republican conference, it is time to look at other viable options. By empowering Patrick McHenry as Speaker Pro Tempore we can take care of our ally Israel until a new speaker is elected," Ohio GOP. Rep David Joyce told NPR in a written statement.

But the details of the resolution were unclear. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday he was open to discussions with Republicans who were interested in governing.

Any effort to empower McHenry would require a House vote needing the same majority vote as electing a speaker. That would almost certainly require votes from Democrats. Some Democrats have suggested they would want assurances that McHenry would allow votes on bipartisan spending bills, aide to Ukraine, and other measures that could pass.

Members complain about Jordan's aggressive pressure campaign

Members who opposed Jordan have also complained about threats and intimidation tactics from Jordan's allies. Those complaints intensified after the second ballot as Jordan vowed to keep fighting. Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla, told reporters he has heard reports of robocalls in his district with misinformation, including telling voters he plans to vote for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY., to be speaker.

"There's robocalls apparently in my district," Gimenez said. "Somebody is funding this. Robocalls, you know they're not free."

Others, like Rep. Jen Kiggans, R-Va., and Kay Granger, R-Texas, have talked vaguely of threats and warned Jordan and his allies to back off.

Others complained that their staff received phone calls from Fox News host Sean Hannity pressuring them to vote for Jordan. Hannity originally characterized those calls as his attempt as a journalist to ask members questions about their position on the speakers race. However, he followed up after the second round of voting with a post on X, formerly known as Twitter encouraging viewers to call members.

The tactics seem to be backfiring. Some members and GOP aides are speculating Jordan will lose more votes as a result of the pressure campaign. For Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark, the targeting campaign "has not helped one iota."

"All I can tell you is that the tactics that have employed against me, the publishing of my office phone number and the messages, whether it's conservative media or anybody else, this is all a result of going after people who do not basically represent the viewpoint of a whole lot of hard core right wing conservatives," he told reporters.

Jordan's hurdles grow

Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz Balart voted for Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who was forced to withdraw his name for speaker after he won the internal vote but failed to lock in enough votes to win on the House floor. Diaz-Balart told reporters he remains opposed to Jordan. "I think it gets more and more difficult for him every day."

He predicted that there would be a "pick up" in the number of votes of GOP members voting for other people on the second ballot. He said the strategy from Jordan allies, which he described as intimidating and threatening people has "backfired dramatically." He didn't name Jordan as the one to blame, or specify any threats he received, but noted that the GOP conference needs to sort out a way forward.

Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., a supporter of Jordan's it was kind of like "deja vu all over again as Yogi Berra used to say, " after Jordan failed to get the votes on the floor. He suggested that "probably about half" of that group could flip and support Jordan. But he also admitted some others could emerge as possible alternative candidates, like Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., the current head of a large group of fiscal conservatives called the Republican Study Committee or Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., a former chair of the RSC.

"I don't either of them have many detractors if that's the correct word for it," Murphy told reporters.

Some GOP lawmakers frustrated at the ongoing dysfunction heading into a third week without a speaker are pushing a proposal to empower Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., with some additional powers to bring up legislative business as the effort to coalesce a permanent speaker continues. McHenry has repeatedly insisted the role is ceremonial, to preside over the election of a new speaker, and he's not interested in the job permanently. He continues to back Jordan.

For Jordan's part, he said he's aware of efforts to put a resolution on the floor to empower McHenry.

"I got 90% of vote yesterday, got a huge cross section of our conference from the conservatives to people in the middle to more liberal members and so I think that's the best route," he told reporters shortly before Wednesday's vote. "But you know what? People are talking about this resolution. I told leadership call the question."

But GOP lawmakers are growing incredibly worried that no one in the House GOP conference can win the 217 votes needed to be elected as the next speaker. After McCarthy was ousted there was a small group floating the idea that McHenry could be given more authority to run the House and allow votes on bills. Some have been in discussions with the House parliamentarian. Currently the House is paralyzed without a speaker, and with a deadline to avoid another government shutdown less than a month away and wars in Israel and Ukraine intensifying there is concern that the chamber needs to be able to pass legislation funding federal agencies and supporting U.S. allies.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.
Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
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