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Jim Jordan tapped as Republican House speaker nominee

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, talks with reporters as House Republicans meet again behind closed doors to find a path to elect a new speaker on Friday.
J. Scott Applewhite
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AP
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, talks with reporters as House Republicans meet again behind closed doors to find a path to elect a new speaker on Friday.

Updated October 13, 2023 at 5:08 PM ET

Republicans have tapped Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, to be their latest nominee for House speaker, one day after the conference's initial nominee, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, failed to consolidate party support.

Jordan defeated Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia in a secret ballot election Friday. The vote tally has not been released.

Members will leave Washington for the weekend and regroup Monday as they enter a third week without a speaker. With a number of Republicans speaking out against him, Jordan has work to do in order to secure the 217 votes necessary to win a majority of the whole House.

Jordan moves to win votes beyond the far right

Jordan, 59, has served in Congress since 2007 and has evolved from hyperpartisan outsider who helped start the House Freedom Caucus to hyperpartisan insider, with a seat at the leadership, a committee gavel, a close relationship with former President Donald Trump and a leading role in the ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Biden.

It is unclear whether Jordan will fall to the same fate as Scalise, as winning the nomination is far different from winning on the House floor.

Jordan supporters generally believe he has an advantage in a public vote on the House floor where each member's vote will also be viewed as a test of their loyalty to Trump.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., a Jordan ally, was confident that the Ohio Republican could win the gavel on the floor but conceded it could take several rounds of voting. "It's not popular to vote against Jim Jordan on the floor. He has the people's support. So even if he didn't get to 217 on the first round, I think his numbers grow under subsequent rounds."

Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif., is also backing Jordan, but acknowledged that Jordan's pugnacious style and hard-right conservative politics might make him less palatable to moderates and members in swing districts. Garcia's district voted for Biden in 2020.

"I can tell you, [my constituents'] priority is that we have a functioning government," Garcia said. "And if that means that I support someone that may be more conservative than me and may be a political lightning rod, but I'm willing to do that, especially if he's the only candidate."

Ahead of the conference meeting, Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said he was not planning to vote for Jordan. In his view, Jordan undermined Scalise's nomination and didn't work hard enough to consolidate support for Scalise.

"He could have been much more passionate about his endorsement," he said, adding that he did not believe Jordan could secure the votes on the House floor. "I don't think he'll get probably close to 217."

Bitter divisions remain

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said he was concerned that Jordan's supporters refused to back Scalise on Thursday and told reporters, "When you reward bad behavior, you get more of it." Other supporters of Scalise expressed similar concerns, and the mood among House Republican lawmakers was tense as members filed out of a morning meeting.

Bacon is among a small group of Republicans who have floated the idea of seeking a consensus candidate who would require some level of Democratic support. "At some point when we've gone to the end of the well and we're still at this spot, we're going to have to come up with a bipartisan solution," Bacon said. He said, "A lot of our folks are in denial, so you've never going to get eight to 10 folks on board."

Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., right, and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., talk during a break in the House Armed Services Committee hearing in 2021. On Friday Scott announced his candidacy for House speaker.
Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
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CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., (right) and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., talk during a break in a House committee hearing in 2021. On Friday, Scott announced his candidacy for House speaker nominee but was later defeated by Rep. Jim Jordan in House GOP meeting.

Democrats push for a bipartisan solution

For their part, top Democrats have used the opportunity to press Republicans to discuss a consensus government. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., has publicly offered to help Republicans elect a speaker, which he reiterated Thursday in a PBS interview.

"We are ready, willing and able to do so," Jeffries said. "I know there are traditional Republicans who are good women and men who want to see government function, but they are unable to do it within the ranks of their own conference, which is dominated by the extremist wing. And that's why we continue to extend the hand of bipartisanship to them."

Jeffries said Democrats could provide votes to elect a speaker and change the rules to make it harder to remove a sitting speaker from power, if that speaker promised more Democratic seats on key committees and a pledge to bring legislation with bipartisan support to the floor, including aid to Ukraine and Israel and the 12 annual spending bills to avoid a shutdown.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters on Friday that there are generally 300 lawmakers willing to work together on big issues. "What I'm saying is, we are agonizing about a small, willful extremist group that has been holding the Congress of the United States hostage. They ought to get off that and walk across the aisle and say, 'What can we do?' "

Top Republicans continue to express no interest in seeking help from Democrats to resolve their internal party problems.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.