Republicans drop Jim Jordan as House speaker nominee after three failed votes

Jim Jordan (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Jim Jordan (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republicans have dropped Jim Jordan as their nominee for the speaker of the US House of Representatives, making the decision during a closed-door session after the ally of Donald Trump failed badly on a third ballot for the gavel.

Afterwards, Mr Jordan said of his colleagues: “We put the question to them, they made a different decision.”

The Judiciary Committee chairman added that House Republicans now need to come together and “figure out who our speaker is going to be”.

With the impasse in the blocked House deepening, Republicans have no realistic or workable plan to unite their fractured majority, elect a new speaker and return to the work of Congress that has been languishing since hardliners ousted Kevin McCarthy at the start of the month.

Kevin McCarthy
Former House speaker Kevin McCarthy (Mariam Zuhaib/AP)

Majority leader Steve Scalise said they are going to “come back and start over” on Monday.

Mr Jordan lost 25 Republican colleagues in Friday’s vote, leaving him far from the majority needed.

Before the vote, Mr Jordan showed no sign of stepping aside, insisting at a Capitol press conference: “The American people are hungry for change.”

Drawing on his Ohio roots, Jordan, who is popular with the Republicans’ right-flank activist base of voters, positioned his long-shot campaign alongside the history of American innovators including the Wright brothers, urging his colleagues to elect him to the speakership.

Mr McCarthy himself rose in the chamber to nominate Mr Jordan, portraying him as a skilled legislator who reaches for compromise, drawing laughter from the Democratic side of the aisle.

Mr McCarthy added: “He is straightforward, honest and reliable.”

Democrats nominated House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, with representative Katherine Clark calling Mr Jordan – who refused to certify the 2020 election – “a threat to democracy”.

“We need a speaker worthy of wielding the gavel,” she said.

But after two failed votes, Mr Jordan’s third attempt at the gavel did not end any better — in large part because more centrist Republicans revolted over the nominee and the hardball tactics being used to win their votes. They have been bombarded with harassing phone calls and even reported death threats.

Hakeem Jeffries
Hakeem Jeffries (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Friday’s vote was 194 for Mr Jordan, his lowest tally yet, and 210 for Mr Jeffries, with two absences on each side.

For more than two weeks the stalemate has shut down the House, leaving a seat of American democracy severely hobbled at a time of challenges at home and abroad. The House Republican majority appears to have no idea how to end the political turmoil and get back to work.

With Republicans in majority control of the House by 221 to 212, any candidate can lose only a few detractors. It appears there is no Republican at present who can win a clear majority, 217 votes, to become speaker.

Next steps are uncertain as angry, frustrated Republicans predict the House could essentially stay closed for the foreseeable future — perhaps until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.

“We’re trying to figure out if there’s a way we can get back with a Republican-only solution,” said veteran legislator Tom Cole.

“That’s what normal majorities do. What this majority has done is prove it’s not a normal majority.”

Representative Matt Gaetz, a chief architect of Mr McCarthy’s removal, said after Friday’s vote that he and other Jordan supporters would be willing to be censured or otherwise punished by their Republican colleagues if that was what it took to win votes for Mr Jordan.

Many view Mr Jordan, a founding member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, as too extreme for a central seat of US power, second in line to the presidency.