Jim Jordan Falls Short in First Vote for Speakership

October 17, 2023

Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) fell short on Tuesday in a vote to serve as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, but more votes were expected to follow that could wear down his opponents.

The Ohio lawmaker and ardent ally of former president Donald Trump won 200 votes, short of the 217 needed to win the job, as 20 of his fellow Republican voted against him. All 212 Democrats voted for their leader, Hakeem Jeffries.

It is not clear how many of those Republican opponents would hold firm in subsequent votes.

If he prevails, the Ohio lawmaker who has spent years fighting with leaders of his own party could end up in one of the most powerful jobs in Washington, putting him second in line for the presidency.

Republicans who control the chamber nominated Jordan as a replacement for Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted as speaker by a small group of his fellow Republicans on Oct. 3.

"He is a patriot, an America First warrior who wins the toughest of fights," Republican representative Elise Stefanik said as she nominated Jordan for speaker on the House floor.

But six Republicans voted instead for McCarthy and another seven voted for Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican whose own bid for speaker fell apart last week. Three Republicans voted for Lee Zeldin, who retired from Congress in January, and Republican representatives Tom Cole, Tom Emmer, and Thomas Massie got one vote each.

McCarthy and Scalise both voted for Jordan.

Republican Party infighting has left the House unable to address urgent concerns such as support for Israel and Ukraine and funding for the U.S. government.

Jordan, a founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, has for much of his career been seen as a divisive force on Capitol Hill, tangling with Republicans and Democrats alike. Nevertheless, he won the Republican nomination for speaker last Friday and has been consolidating support from former opponents in the party.

Republicans control the House by a narrow 221-212 margin, giving them little room for error on divisive votes like this one.

Jordan will pressure Republican holdouts to fall in line with subsequent votes.

McCarthy never got less than 200 votes in 15 rounds over four days in January.

New Republican challengers could emerge if Jordan does not pick up support, including Patrick McHenry, who is temporarily filling the speaker's chair, and No. 3 House Republican Tom Emmer.

Jordan's supporters say he would be an effective advocate for spending cuts and other Republican priorities in negotiations with Democratic president Joe Biden and the Senate, which is also controlled by Democrats.

'Doing Trump's bidding'

Democrats have recoiled at Jordan's candidacy, painting him as an extremist who would take orders from Trump.

Democratic representative Pete Aguilar said on the House floor that Jordan's election would show the United States' enemies that "the very people who seek to undermine democracy are rewarded with positions of immense power. We are talking about someone who has spent their entire career trying to hold our country back."

Jeffries has suggested a bipartisan deal that could give more powers to McHenry or another compromise speaker, according to a Democrat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Jordan comes at the job from a profoundly different angle from other leaders in Congress, who typically wield influence by raising money and keeping their party united.

A fixture on conservative media outlets, Jordan amplified Trump's false claims of election fraud in 2020. As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he is helping lead an impeachment inquiry into Biden that Democrats decry as baseless.

He helped found the House Freedom Caucus, which then-speaker John Boehner dubbed "legislative terrorists" before members of that group pressured him to retire. Jordan was an architect of government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018.

Jordan had a more productive relationship with McCarthy, who was forced out by a small group of Republican insurgents.

Republicans nominated Scalise to succeed McCarthy last week, but he abandoned his bid after he was unable to consolidate support—a development that some Republicans blame on Jordan and his supporters.

Before entering politics, Jordan served as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University. Former students in 2018 accused him of turning a blind eye to sexual abuse of college wrestlers by the wrestling team's doctor. He denied those allegations and a university investigation found no hard evidence that he knew of the abuse.

(Reporting by David Morgan, Makini Brice, and Moira Warburton; writing by Andy Sullivan; editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis, and Grant McCool)