Republicans chose Rep. Jim Jordan as their new nominee for House speaker on Friday during internal voting, putting the gavel within reach of the staunch ally of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
Jordan, of Ohio, will now try to unite colleagues from the deeply divided House GOP majority around his bid ahead of a floor vote, which could push to next week.
Frustrated House Republicans have been fighting bitterly over whom they should elect to replace the speaker they ousted, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and the future direction of their party. The stalemate, now in its second week, has thrown the House into chaos, grinding all other business to a halt.
“I think Jordan would do a great job,” McCarthy said ahead of the vote. “We got to get this back on track.”
Attention swiftly turned to Jordan, the Judiciary Committee chairman and founder of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, as the next potential candidate after Majority Leader Steve Scalise abruptly ended his bid when it became clear holdouts would refuse to back him.
But not all Republicans want to see Jordan as speaker, second in line to the presidency. Overwhelmed and exhausted, anxious GOP lawmakers worry their House majority is being frittered away to countless rounds of infighting and some don’t want to reward Jordan’s wing, which sparked the turmoil.
“If we’re going to be the majority party, we have to act like the majority party,” said Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., who posed a last-ditch challenge to Jordan.
While the firebrand Jordan has a long list of detractors who started making their opposition known, Jordan’s supporters said voting against the Trump ally during a public vote on the House floor would be tougher since he is so popular and well known among more conservative GOP voters.
Heading into a morning meeting, Jordan said, “I feel real good.”
Other potential speaker choices were also being floated. Some Republicans proposed simply giving Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who was appointed interim speaker pro tempore, greater authority to lead the House for some time.
The House, without a speaker, is essentially unable to function during a time of turmoil in the U.S. and wars overseas. The political pressure increasingly is on Republicans to reverse course, reassert majority control and govern in Congress.
With the House narrowly split 221-212, with two vacancies, any nominee can lose just a few Republicans before they fail to reach the 217 majority needed in the face of opposition from Democrats, who will most certainly back their own leader, Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
Absences heading into the weekend could lower the majority threshold needed, and Republicans said they were down about a dozen lawmakers as of midday Friday. No floor votes were scheduled as attendance thinned before the weekend.
In announcing his decision to withdraw from the nomination, Scalise said late Thursday the Republican majority still has to come together and “open up the House again. But clearly not everybody is there.”
Asked if he would throw his support behind Jordan, Scalise said, “It’s got to be people that aren’t doing it for themselves and their own personal interest.”