WASHINGTON — South Florida Republicans split their votes Tuesday for the next House speaker, as a bid by conservative Rep. Jim Jordan failed on a first ballot. Twenty GOP holdouts denied him the majority needed to seize the gavel.
Rep. Maria Salazar, who represents Key Biscayne, voted for Jordan. But Rep. Carlos Gimenez, a former Miami-Dade mayor, voted for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted from the speakership by hard liners earlier this month. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, another Miami area Republican, voted for Steve Scalise, the House majority leader who briefly sought the speaker’s chair.
Salazar was previously a McCarthy supporter but did not explain her vote Tuesday. Gimenez, however, has been a vocal opponent of Jordan, saying that the House has entered “Bizzaro World” because eight fellow Republicans unseated McCarthy.
Additional voting was postponed as the House hit a standstill, stuck while Jordan works to shore up support from Republican colleagues to replace the ousted Kevin McCarthy for the job. Reluctant Republicans are refusing to give Jordan their votes, viewing the Ohio congressman as too extreme for the powerful position of House speaker, second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
Next votes were expected Wednesday.
“We’re going to keep working,” Jordan said at the Capitol as evening fell.
After two weeks of angry Republican infighting since McCarthy was removed, the House vote quickly became a showdown for the gavel. Reluctant Republicans refused to give Jordan their votes, viewing the Ohio congressman as too extreme for the powerful position of House speaker, an office that is number two in the line of presidential succession (after the vice president).
In all, 212 Democrats voted unanimously for their House leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, while 200 Republicans voted for Jordan and 20 for someone else. Jeffries has no chance of winning, and Jordan must pick up most of his GOP foes to win a majority.
The holdouts are a mix of pragmatists, ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing to newer lawmakers from districts where their voters back home prefer President Joe Biden to Trump.
But with public pressure bearing down on lawmakers from Trump’s allies including Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, it’s unclear how long the holdouts can last. Jordan swiftly flipped dozens of detractors in a matter of days, shoring up Republicans who have few options left.
“Jim Jordan will be a great speaker,” Trump said outside the courthouse in Manhattan, where he is facing business fraud charges. “I think he’s going to have the votes soon, if not today, over the next day or two.”
The political climb has been steep for Jordan, the combative Judiciary Committee chairman and a founding member of the right-flank Freedom Caucus. He is known more as a chaos agent than a skilled legislator, raising questions about how he would lead. Congress faces daunting challenges, risking a federal shutdown if it fails to fund the government and fielding President Joe Biden’s requests for aid to help Ukraine and Israel in the wars abroad.
To seize the gavel, Jordan will need almost the full majority of his colleagues behind him in a House floor vote, as Democrats are certain to back their own nominee, Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
With the House Republican majority narrowly held at 221-212, Jordan can afford to lose only a few votes to reach the 217 majority threshold, if there are no further absences.
Jordan conferred immediately afterward with McCarthy, who fared nearly as badly in January, having lost almost as many votes on the first of what would become 15 ballots for the gavel.
As the somber roll call was underway, each lawmaker announcing their choice, the holdouts quickly surfaced.
One, Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a leader of the centrists, voted McCarthy, the ousted former speaker. Murmurs rippled through the chamber. Others voted for Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who was the party’s first nominee to replace McCarthy before he, too, was rejected by hardliners last week.
Making the official nominating speech was another top Trump ally, GOP conference chairwoman Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, who drew from the lessons of the Old Testament before declaring Jordan will be “We the People’s speaker.”
On the other side of the aisle, Democratic caucus chairman Rep. Pete Aguilar of California nominated Jeffries and warned that handing the speaker’s gavel to a “vocal election denier” would be “a terrible message” at home and abroad.
Aguilar recited all the times Jordan voted against various measures — abortion access, government aid and others, Democrats chanting “He said no!”
One by one, others also announced their support. Still, it could take multiple rounds during House floor voting, not unlike in January when it took McCarthy 15 ballots to win the gavel.
Democrats have decried the far-right shift, calling Jordan the leader of the chaos wing of the GOP.
Jordan has been a top Trump ally, particularly during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by the former president’s backers who were trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.
“Jim Jordan is an insurrectionist who has no place being second in line to the presidency,” said Michael Fanone, a former District of Columbia police officer who was wounded fighting the mob on Jan. 6.
Some Republicans resent being pressured by Jordan’s allies and say they are being threatened with primary opponents if they don’t support him as speaker. One aide said their office received an email from Hannity’s team pushing Jordan.