Republicans abruptly dropped Rep. Jim Jordan on Friday as their nominee for House speaker, making the decision during a closed-door session after the hard-edged ally of Donald Trump failed badly on a third ballot for the gavel.
Rep. Maria Salazar, who represents Key Biscayne, voted for Jordan a third time. But her vote was part of dwindling support for the conservative firebrand. The tally was 194 for Jordan, his lowest yet, and 210 for Jeffries, with two absences on each side.
The outcome left Republicans dejected, frustrated and sinking deeper into turmoil, another week without a House speaker bordering on a full-blown crisis. House Republicans have no realistic or working plan to unite the fractured GOP majority, elect a new speaker and return to the work of Congress that has been languishing since hard-liners ousted Kevin McCarthy at the start of the month.
Afterward the meeting, Jordan said simply of his colleagues, “We put the question to them, they made a different decision.”
The hard-charging Judiciary Committee chairman said House Republicans now need to come together and “figure out who our speaker is going to be.”
Their majority control floundering, Republicans left the private session blaming one another for the divisions they have created. Next steps were highly uncertain as a wide range of Republican lawmakers started pitching themselves for speaker.
Salazar was among those expressing frustration with the internal deadlock. “We have to get back to work, we have to open the doors of the Capitol,” she said in a social media post Thursday. She said issues like Ukraine, Israel, the border, and government funding needed to be addressed.
But it appears no one at present can win a GOP majority, leaving the House without a speaker and unable to function for the foreseeable future, an embarrassing blow to a central U.S. seat of government.
“We’re in a very bad place right now,” McCarthy said.
The plan is for new nominees to come forward at a candidate forum next week. Majority Leader Steve Scalise said they would “start over” on Monday.
In the meantime, Rep. Mark Alford, a freshman from Missouri. was far from alone in expressing his anger and disappointment.
“I gave up my career to come here to do something for America, to rebuild our military, to get spending under control, to secure our border — and here we are in this quicksand,” he said.
A founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, Jordan’s run essentially collapsed in large part because more centrist Republicans are revolting over the nominee and the hardball tactics being used to win their votes. They have been bombarded with harassing phone calls and even reported death threats.
To win over GOP colleagues, Jordan had relied on backing from Trump, the party’s front-runner in the 2024 election, and groups pressuring rank-and-file lawmakers for the vote. But they were not enough and in fact backfired on some.
In fact, the Jordan lost rather than gained votes despite hours spent trying to win over holdouts, no improvement from the 20 and then 22 Republicans he lost in early rounds this week.
“He doesn’t have the votes to be speaker,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez, a former Miami mayor said after a late Thursday meeting when Jordan sought to hear detractors out and shore up support. Also again opposing Jordan was fellow Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.
For more than two weeks the stalemate has shut down the U.S. House, leaving a major part of the government severely hobbled at a time of challenges at home and abroad. While Democrats have offered to broker a bipartisan deal to re-open the House, the Republican majority appears to have no idea how to end the political turmoil and get back to work.
One extraordinary idea, to give the interim speaker pro tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry, more powers for the next several months to at least bring the House back into session and conduct crucial business, was swiftly rejected by Jordan’s own ultra-conservative allies.
A “betrayal,” said Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind.
Republicans predict the House could essentially stay closed until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.
“We’re trying to figure out if there’s a way we can get back with a Republican-only solution,” said veteran legislator Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.
“That’s what normal majorities do. What this majority has done is prove it’s not a normal majority.”
Democratic Leader Jeffries reiterated that his party was “ready, willing and able” to work with more traditional Republicans on a path to re-open the House — particularly as Congress is being asked to consider President Joe Biden’s aid package for Israel, Ukraine and other needs.
Republicans have so far been loath to partner with the Democrats in a bipartisan way on candidate, although such arrangements have been done from time to time on the state level.
“We just need to figure out who that person is going to be or figure out another solution,” Salazar said.
Associated Press writers Lisa Mascaro, Farnoush Amiri, Stephen Groves, and Kevin Freking reported from Washington.