Jordan Loses First House Speaker Vote as Republican Infighting Continues

Jordan Loses First House Speaker Vote as Republican Infighting Continues | ltc-a

Representative Jim Jordan, the ultraconservative hard-liner from Ohio, lost a bid to be elected speaker on Tuesday and put off a second vote until Wednesday, prolonging a two-week fight that has paralyzed the chamber and exposed deep G.O.P. divisions.

Mr. Jordan, the combative co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, fell 17 votes short of the majority he would have needed to prevail, as a determined bloc of mainstream Republicans stood against him.

Mr. Jordan had initially sought to force a second vote Tuesday evening, but, struggling in the face of unyielding opposition, he called for a recess for the night and planned to hold a vote Wednesday at 11 a.m.

“We’re going to keep working, and we’re going to get to the votes,” Mr. Jordan said.

The group of 20 G.O.P. holdouts was larger than previously known and included some influential members of the House. Among them were the chairwoman and several members of the powerful Appropriations Committee, as well as half-dozen Republicans from politically competitive districts won by President Biden.

Mr. Jordan’s loss underscored the seemingly intractable differences within the party as well as the near-impossible political math that led to the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as speaker two weeks ago and which has so far thwarted Republicans’ attempts to choose a successor.

Since Republicans control the House with only four votes to spare, a small hard-right minority has flexed its muscles repeatedly to the consternation of the mainstream conservatives who form the bulk of the conference. The refusal of some of them to go along with Mr. Jordan’s election was an unusual show of force from a group that more commonly seeks compromise and conciliation.

But Tuesday’s vote also indicated how sharply the G.O.P. has veered to the right. Though Mr. Jordan failed to win a majority, 200 Republicans — including many of those more mainstream members — voted to give him the job second in line to the presidency. That was a remarkable show of support for Mr. Jordan, 59, who helped Mr. Trump try to overturn the 2020 election and has used his power in Congress to defend the former president. Mr. Jordan has a long track record of opposing compromise that prompted a previous Republican speaker to brand him a “legislative terrorist.”

Representative Elise Stefanik, Republican of New York, formally nominated Mr. Jordan, a former wrestling champion, on the floor on Tuesday and cast his bruising style as a virtue. “Whether on the wrestling mat or in the committee room, Jim Jordan is strategic, scrappy, tough and principled,” she said.

Before his loss, Mr. Jordan said he was willing to force multiple rounds of votes — “whatever it takes” — to win the speakership, and with his opponents’ names now on the record, right-wing activists were bombarding them with calls.

“The calls that are coming in are ridiculous,” said Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, who voted against Mr. Jordan in part because Mr. Jordan has refused to say that President Biden won the 2020 election. “They’re in the hundreds if not thousands that are coming into every office right now.”

Many of the Republicans who voted against Mr. Jordan vowed to stand strong in the face of the pressure, citing a variety of concerns. Some members of the Appropriations Committee, which writes the government spending bills, are deeply distrustful of Mr. Jordan’s approach to spending and the types of cuts he has endorsed. Others were Republicans from swing districts in which Mr. Trump’s brand is toxic. Still others remained embittered about the way Mr. Jordan’s allies forced out Mr. McCarthy from the speakership and then refused to line up behind Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the party’s No. 2, when he initially won an internal party election for nominee last week.

“I will not be pressured or intimidated,” vowed Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, an Appropriations Committee member and one of the holdouts against Mr. Jordan who voted for Mr. Scalise. He added, “I voted for the guy who won the election.”

Mr. Scalise “won the head-to-head conference vote against Jim Jordan,” said Representative John Rutherford of Florida, another appropriator who said he intended to continue voting against Mr. Jordan. “I think now we’re going to have to find a consensus candidate.”

The chaos in the House has prompted renewed discussion of empowering Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina — the temporary speaker whose role is primarily to hold an election for a speaker — to carry out the chamber’s work until the conflict could be resolved. Lawmakers have grown increasingly worried about the impact of continuing to operate without an elected speaker, including that Congress might not be able to act to support Israel as it wages war against Hamas.

On Tuesday, Democrats were united in voting for Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader. Representative Pete Aguilar of California, the No. 3 Democrat, nominated Mr. Jeffries with a blistering speech against Mr. Jordan. He accused the Ohio Republican of “inciting violence on this chamber,” a reference to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol — remarkably sharp language about another lawmaker seldom heard on the House floor and hardly ever during a nominating speech for speaker.

Mr. Aguilar made a pointed case against Mr. Jordan, calling him the “architect of a nationwide abortion ban, a vocal election denier and an insurrection inciter.” It encapsulated the political argument that Democrats are prepared to make against Republicans for embracing Mr. Jordan, after a show of disarray that some in the G.O.P. were already worried would cost them their House majority.

Amid the chaos, at least one Republican said she was heading for the exit. Representative Debbie Lesko of Arizona, a member of the Freedom Caucus, said in a statement announcing her retirement from the House that, “Right now, Washington is broken; it is hard to get anything done.”

In a news conference at the Capitol on Tuesday evening, Mr. Jeffries called for Republicans to put forward a different nominee.

“There are many good men and women on the Republican side of the aisle who are qualified to be the speaker of the House Representatives,” Mr. Jeffries said. “There is no circumstance where Jim Jordan is one of them.”

Tuesday’s vote only fueled the bitter infighting raging in the Republican ranks. The bad blood between Mr. Jordan’s and Mr. Scalise’s camps was particularly evident.

After his defeat, Mr. Jordan met privately with Mr. Scalise to ask for his help in shoring up votes, but he received no such pledge to do so, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Mr. Scalise’s spokeswoman denied that he had refused to help Mr. Jordan, but Mr. Scalise’s supporters remain angry at the way Mr. Jordan’s supporters refused to back the Louisianian.

Immediately after losing on the House floor, Mr. Jordan held a series of meetings with the holdouts, finding himself in a deeply uncomfortable situation. For a lawmaker whose approach has been to demand ideological purity from his party’s leaders, Mr. Jordan now finds himself needing to negotiate with some of the very establishment Republicans his supporters consider a corrupt “cartel,” as they sometimes refer to elected leaders in Washington.

Mr. Jordan is not known as a skilled legislator or deal cutter; in 16 years in Congress, he has not sponsored a single bill that has become law.

Four of Mr. Jordan’s detractors were from the New York delegation, which helped deliver the House majority to Republicans last year.

Representative Anthony D’Esposito of New York issued a public statement that laid out a number of demands, including to rework state and local tax deductions, known as SALT, a top priority for the delegation.

“I want a speaker who understands Long Island’s unique needs,” Mr. D’Esposito wrote. “Restoring the SALT deduction, safeguarding 9/11 victim support funding and investing in critical infrastructure are our priorities.”

Reporting was contributed by Catie Edmondson, Annie Karni, Carl Hulse, Kayla Guo and Robert Jimison.