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Jim Jordan falls short in vote for House speaker

The House on Tuesday failed to elect Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan as its next speaker, extending the uncertainty that followed the historic ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy earlier this month.

Jordan, a Republican, fell short of the majority he needed to secure the top post, with 20 members of his own party voting against him.

The entire Democratic caucus voted for their nominee, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Another vote is possible Tuesday. It is unclear if the tally will remain the same.

California Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale), who voted against Jordan, said afterward that he would support Jordan the next time around. He told reporters his first vote against Jordan was to protest McCarthy’s ouster. “What happened to him was wrong,” LaMalfa said.

In the meantime, House votes on other legislative matters remains stalled. Ahead of the floor vote, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who is currently serving as speaker pro tempore, told reporters he opposes expanding his powers, signaling he would not work with Democrats to get the House running again.

The failed Jordan vote comes less than a week after Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise fell short in his own bid to become speaker. Scalise pulled out as nominee after it became clear he would not have enough votes to get the gavel in a floor vote.

Most of those Republicans voting against Jordan were GOP centrists or those who viewed Jordan as too far right to lead the House. Most voted either for McCarthy or Scalise, or a handful of other establishment Republicans like Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).

Conversely, those who voted against Scalise last week believed he was too establishment or not conservative enough for their tastes.

Because the GOP House majority is so narrow, even a handful of votes can make all the difference.

Jordan, who has never served in party leadership, is a darling on the right and was endorsed by former President Trump.

He is a fixture on conservative talk shows, frequently blasting Democrats and liberals in power. The rhetoric earned him notice from party leaders, who in 2019 named him the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee and in 2020 to the House Judiciary Committee. Both committees tend to be a space for rabble-rousers, not for deal-makers. So is the far-right House Freedom Caucus, which Jordan co-founded in 2015, serving as the inaugural chair.

During a Friday news conference, Democratic leader Jeffries noted that Jordan during his 16-year tenure in Congress “hasn’t passed a single bill… because his focus has not been on the American people.”

The Ohioan has been a vocal critic of President Biden, frequently declining to vote on Biden-backed legislation.

Jordan cemented his loyalty to Trump in the wake of the 2020 presidential election when he cast doubt on the results. He “was a significant player” in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, the House select committee’s Jan. 6 report noted.

When Jordan won the GOP nomination for speaker on Friday, a wave of Republicans indicated they would not back him. Over the weekend, however, he and others worked behind the scenes and on social media to pressure them to back him for the speakership.

Their lobbying campaign initially angered a faction of moderates, who said they planned to challenge Jordan in a floor vote.

The GOP struggle to agree on a leader has crippled the House.

Though McCarthy managed in January to secure the support he needed to become speaker after an unprecedented 15 votes, conservatives in his party grew frustrated in recent months after he reached deals with Democrats to avoid a debt default and government shutdown.

As speaker, Jordan would have to contend with this deep fracture as he confronts an array of issues, including another government shutdown deadline next month.

He would also need to confront the escalating conflict in and around the Gaza Strip. The assault launched by Hamas militants earlier this month prompted calls for additional military aid for Israel. The House, lacking a permanent speaker, has been unable to approve new aid or declare its position on the conflict.

The Biden administration would also be reliant on Jordan as speaker to call a floor vote to get legislation for additional military assistance to help Ukraine fend off Russian invaders. Though additional funding for the war-torn nation remains bipartisan lawmakers, an increasing number of rank-and-file Republicans have grown skeptical of continuing American investment and expressed an unwillingness to send more military aid.

The Pentagon has pressed House Republicans to approve further funding, warning that Russia could win the war if U.S. support for Ukraine dries up.

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