World

Jim Jordan loses first vote to become House speaker

Jim Jordan was not successful in the first ballot (Alex Brandon/AP)
Jim Jordan was not successful in the first ballot (Alex Brandon/AP) Jim Jordan was not successful in the first ballot (Alex Brandon/AP)

Republicans have rejected representative Jim Jordan for House speaker on the first ballot, as holdouts denied the hard-charging ally of Donald Trump the majority needed to seize the gavel.

More voting is expected as Mr Jordan works to shore up support to replace the ousted Kevin McCarthy for the job and the leader of the Republican Party’s hard-right flank moves to take a central seat of US power.

But after two weeks of angry Republican infighting since Mr McCarthy was removed by hard-liners, the House vote quickly has become a showdown for the gavel.

Some 20 reluctant Republicans are refusing to give Mr Jordan their votes, viewing the Ohio congressman as too extreme for the powerful position of House speaker, second in line to the presidency.

Former speaker Kevin McCarthy
Former speaker Kevin McCarthy Former speaker Kevin McCarthy (Jose Luis Magana/AP)

The holdouts are a mix of pragmatists, ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing to newer politicians from districts where their voters back home prefer President Joe Biden to Mr Trump.

But with public pressure bearing down on politicians from Mr Trump’s allies including Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, it is unclear how long the holdouts can last.

Mr Jordan swiftly flipped dozens of detractors in a matter of days, shoring up Republicans who have few options left.

“Jim Jordan will be a great speaker,” the former president said outside the courthouse in Manhattan, where he is facing business fraud charges. “I think he’s going to have the votes soon, if not today, over the next day or two.”

Former president Donald Trump
Former president Donald Trump Former president Donald Trump backs Jim Jordan (Seth Wenig/AP)

The political climb has been steep for Mr Jordan, the combative judiciary committee chairman and a founding member of the right-flank Freedom Caucus. He is known more as a chaos agent than a skilled legislator, raising questions about how he would lead.

Congress faces daunting challenges, risking a federal shutdown if it fails to fund the government and fielding President Biden’s requests for aid to help Ukraine and Israel in the wars abroad.

To seize the gavel, Mr Jordan will need almost the full majority of his colleagues behind him in a House floor vote, as Democrats are certain to back their own nominee, Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

With the House Republican majority narrowly held at 221-212, Mr Jordan can afford to lose only a few votes to reach the 217 majority threshold, if there are no further absences.

After a late-evening meeting on Monday at the Capitol turned into a venting session of angry Republicans, Mr Jordan acknowledged: “We’ve got a few more people to talk to, listen to.”