After a series of setbacks, Republicans ended the week no closer to electing a new speaker as deep internal divisions have left the conference struggling to govern and the House in a state of paralysis.
The chaos within House GOP ranks intensified dramatically over the past several days as the conference has tried and so far failed to find a viable successor to Kevin McCarthy following his unprecedented ouster at the hands of a small faction of hardline conservatives.
Rep. Jim Jordan is the new GOP speaker nominee following Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s exit from the race. But the Ohio Republican faces the same kind of grim vote math that doomed Scalise’s speaker bid as Jordan lacks the 217 votes needed to win the gavel in a full House floor vote.
Jordan has the weekend to continue to make his case and attempt to flip holdouts, but he faces a steep uphill battle.
The GOP conference faced whiplash this week after Scalise won an initial vote to become speaker nominee, only to drop out not long after as a result of entrenched opposition to his candidacy. The week ended with another vote, this time to make Jordan the new nominee. But it soon became clear that Jordan also faces a stiff wall of resistance.
The House remains effectively frozen as long as there is no speaker, a dire situation that comes as Congress faces a fast-approaching government funding deadline in mid-November and as crisis unfolds abroad in Ukraine and with Israel’s war against Hamas.
Asked by CNN’s Manu Raju how the entire episode reflects on the GOP, McCarthy said on Friday, “it’s terrible.”
Republicans have grown increasingly frustrated that the conference has not been able to coalesce around a candidate. Some are openly questioning whether anyone can reach 217 votes.
On Friday, Jordan won the speaker nomination against GOP Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia – who made a surprise last-minute bid – in a 124 to 81 vote, leaving him far short of 217.
Jordan then called a second vote Friday afternoon asking members if they would support him on the floor. That vote, which was cast by secret ballot, was 152 to 55, laying bare the major challenge Jordan faces in his bid for the gavel.
Jordan or any other Republican speaker candidate can only afford to lose four GOP votes when the full House votes for speaker if all members are voting.
Republican Rep. Mike Garcia of California said on Friday that Jordan and his team will have 48 hours to “make phone calls to understand why people aren’t there quite yet, and hopefully get them there before Monday” as he expressed confidence that Jordan can ultimately prevail.
Jordan is a polarizing figure on the national stage, which could contribute to concerns for more moderate members of the conference.
He has been the face of key House GOP investigations as chair of the Judiciary Committee. He has a longstanding reputation as a conservative agitator who helped found the hardline House Freedom Caucus.
As the GOP leadership crisis drags on, some Republicans have pitched the idea of granting more power to Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who is serving in the role of interim speaker, but that idea is untested and it is not clear how much support it would have.