GOP’s Jim Jordan plans second shot for speaker after first fails, members explore other options
PHOTO CAPTION: U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the top contender in the race to be the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is seen after he failed in the first round of voting in his bid to become the new Speaker of the House on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 17, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
By David Morgan, Moira Warburton and Katharine Jackson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Outspoken conservative Jim Jordan planned to take a second shot at the top job in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, while some fellow Republicans began to explore other options with the chamber in its 16th day without a leader.
The House is due to hold a second vote to fill the vacant speaker's chair when it convenes at 11 a.m. ET (1500 GMT), giving Jordan another chance to win the needed 217 votes.
Jordan came up short in an initial vote on Tuesday as 20 of his fellow Republicans and all 212 Democrats voted against him. Some of his Republican critics predicted that opposition could increase by five to 10 Republicans in a second ballot.
"I think it gets more and more difficult for him every day," said Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, who opposes Jordan.
Surveying the stalemate from the sidelines, two former Republican speakers advocated for the option of empowering acting Speaker Patrick McHenry to lead the chamber, at least through the end of the year.
Former Speaker New Gingrich, who held the role in the late 1990s, recommended the move "if the House Republicans cannot resolve the speakership in the next few days" in an essay on Tuesday.
"I agree," former Speaker John Boehner responded on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Republicans who control the chamber have been unable to unite behind a speaker candidate since a small faction of them ousted Kevin McCarthy on Oct. 3.
That has left Congress unable to respond to crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, and consumed more than two weeks of the time they had allowed themselves to fund the government past Nov. 17, when a stopgap spending bill runs out.
Jordan, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, could be in trouble if more Republicans vote against him in a second ballot.
McCarthy sounded a note of optimism for Jordan hours before the second vote.
"If he can hold his votes and the number goes up, I think he can get there," McCarthy told CNBC.
Jordan himself did not say whether he had the votes to prevail, telling reporters he was "Working on it."
At least one Republican who voted against him on Tuesday, Representative Doug LaMalfa, said he would vote for Jordan on the second ballot.
New Republican alternatives aside from McHenry could also emerge if Jordan does not pick up support. Potential candidates include Representative Tom Emmer, currently the No. 3 House Republican.
Republicans control the House by a narrow 221-212 majority and can afford no more than four defections on controversial votes.
Democrats, meanwhile, have signaled support for empowering McHenry and said they would not insist on sharing power.
"We recognize that the Republicans temporarily hold the gavel. We respect that," Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said. "Our objective is to reopen the House of Representatives."
Members of both parties have been discussing a possible agreement. But some Democrats privately said Republicans will have to publicly call for a bipartisan solution and they have yet to indicate a willingness to do so.
Jordan rejected the idea a bipartisan deal, predicting that House Republicans would oppose "any type of coalition government with Democrats."
Unlike previous House leaders, who gained influence by raising money and building broad coalitions, Jordan has made his name as a vocal leader of the party's hard right, tangling with Democrats and Republicans alike.
As a founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, the former wrestling coach helped drive Republican Speaker John Boehner into retirement in 2015 and advocated for government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018.
A congressional investigation found that Jordan was a "significant player" in Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he has led investigations into Democratic President Joe Biden's administration and is a driving force in an impeachment inquiry into Biden that Democrats say is baseless.
Several of his Republican opponents have senior positions on the House Appropriations Committee, including panel chair Kay Granger. Democrats pointed to that fact as a sign of Republican concern for the deep spending cuts that Jordan and other hardliners have advocated this year.
Jordan's supporters say he would be an effective advocate for advancing conservative priorities in Washington, where Democrats control the White House and the Senate.
(Reporting by David Morgan, Moira Warburton and Katharine Jackson, additional reporting by Makini Brice and Susan Heavey, writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool and Nick Zieminski)