Jim Jordan's House speakership bid on the ropes ahead of second vote

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the Republican nominee for speaker of the House, and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., are seen on the House floor of the U.S. Capitol after he did not receive enough votes to become speaker on Tuesday, October 17, 2023. 

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday is voting for the second time in as many days on Rep. Jim Jordan’s bid to become the next speaker, after the Ohio Republican suffered a stinging rebuke from his GOP colleagues in the first ballot.

The House met at 11 a.m. ET, and the roll call vote on Jordan’s nomination is now taking place.

Jordan’s bid to become speaker appeared to be in deep trouble Wednesday, after he failed to secure the gavel by a wider margin than expected in the Tuesday vote. On that ballot, 20 Republicans publicly voted against the Judiciary Committee chairman, and 200 voted for him.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who formally nominated Jordan Wednesday, criticized the Republican faction that triggered the leadership vacuum in the House by engineering the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

“I made the remark that those who did this, whether intentionally or unintentionally, we’re going to put the Congress in a state of chaos and the country into a state of uncertainty,” Cole said in his nomination speech before House. “We have a chance today to end that chaos and that uncertainty.”

Jordan picked up a few votes overnight, such as that of California Rep. Doug LaMalfa. But making up a gap of 20 was a daunting prospect.

Jordan’s failure to secure the gavel by such a wide margin cast further doubt on whether House Republicans had any viable path to elect a new speaker, short of finding a consensus candidate who could also win over Democrats. 

Some of the GOP lawmakers who opposed Jordan on Tuesday voted for McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, neither of whom were running for the post. Other Republicans voted for Lee Zeldin, who left Congress in January. 

If Jordan fails in a second ballot, Republicans could push to empower Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who has filled in as interim speaker since McCarthy was ousted.

Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio plans to introduce a resolution to elect McHenry as speaker pro tempore after Jordan faces his second ballot, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News.

“After two weeks without a Speaker of the House and no clear candidate with 217 votes in the Republican conference, it is time to look at other viable options,” Joyce told NBC News. “By empowering Patrick McHenry as Speaker Pro Tempore we can take care of our ally Israel until a new Speaker is elected.”

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Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania has already introduced a resolution to expand McHenry’s currently limited powers until the GOP can settle on a permanent speaker.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York has indicated that Democrats are open to throwing their support behind McHenry to end the current impasse.

The House has faced a leadership vacuum for more than two weeks now, after eight hard-right Republicans led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida orchestrated the ouster of McCarthy in a historically unprecedented no-confidence vote.

House GOP lawmakers have repeatedly failed to coalesce around a candidate to replace McCarthy. Scalise was the party’s originally nominee, but the majority leader from Louisiana was forced to pull the plug last week after it became clear he did not have enough Republican support.

The chaos in the House is now set against the backdrop of spiraling violence in the Middle East, after Hamas massacred hundreds of civilians in Israel and retaliatory strikes by the Netanyahu government have caused immense human suffering in Gaza.

A strike against a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday has killed hundreds of civilians, with the Palestinians and the broader Arab world holding Israel responsible while the Netanyahu government claims an errant rocket fired by Islamist militants hit the medical facility.

The hospital strike threatens to escalate the already devastating war into a broader regional conflict.

Congress is in a state of paralysis, unable to respond to the crisis in the Middle East until the House elects a speaker. President Joe Biden, who is traveling to Israel Wednesday, has urged Congress to pass emergency security assistance to support Israel.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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