After he failed for a third time to muster the votes needed on the House floor, House Republicans voted in a secret ballot Friday to ditch Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as their nominee for Speaker, setting off a scramble among Republicans to find a new candidate for the House GOP’s top job.
Jordan tried and failed for days to break through the opposition. With every hour that passed, his detractors just dug in their heels more, ultimately tanking his speakership dreams and thrusting the House into a third week without a leader.
The speakership has now been vacant for 17 days since eight Republican hardliners moved to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), kicking off an unprecedented power vacuum that has highlighted deep divisions within the Republican conference. (The House GOP ultimately needs near unanimity on the floor to elect a new leader—that is, if they’re to do it without Democratic help.)
Jordan spent a week as the Speaker nominee, working against the tides of bitter Republican infighting that eventually swallowed his candidacy, landing lawmakers back at square one.
After Jordan lost his third speaker vote—shedding support on each successive ballot—Jordan moved to shore up his position as the speaker-designee by holding a vote behind closed doors among Republicans. The strategy backfired, with Jordan losing on a secret ballot 112-86, with five Republicans voting present.
With Jordan out, a bevy of Republicans either jumped into the race or suggested they may jump in. Among the announced candidates—and those considering it—was a collection of conservatives, defense hawks, and rank-and-file Republicans.
There was No. 3 Republican, Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN). There was Chairman of the Republican Study Committee Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK). Former RSC Chairman Mike Johnson (R-LA). Conservative favorite Byron Donalds (R-FL). Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green (R-TN). Budget Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-TX). Fellow Texan Pete Sessions, a former Rules Committee Chairman. Fellow Texan Roger Williams. Austin Scott (R-GA). Dan Meuser (R-PA). And Jack Bergman (R-MI).
Among those 11 Republicans, Emmer likely has the immediate advantage. As the GOP whip, his job is literally to find the votes, and he has a leadership staff accustomed to winning these sorts of battles. Already, Emmer garnered an important endorsement Friday afternoon: McCarthy.
But the other candidates could certainly find a way to win. With 1src Republicans immediately showing interest, much of the race will be about surviving rounds of voting, making coalitions, and building support.
Of course, this is what the previous speaker candidates were all supposed to be doing as well—and neither Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) nor Jordan could get the votes needed on the floor.
Part of the issue for both men—and any future speaker nominee—was that they couldn’t overcome the hardline opposition to their bids. And even though this crop of candidates may have less baggage than either Scalise or Jordan, there’s no guarantee they will get Republicans to fall in line—especially if this open race becomes a bruising leadership battle, as these elections are normally wont to do.
Republicans are now scheduled to have a “candidate forum” Monday night, and will then likely move to rounds of voting on Tuesday—with the lowest vote-getter dropping off on each ballot—until they have a new designee.
But again, with both conservatives and GOP “moderates” already proving they’re not afraid to tank candidates on the floor if they personally disapprove of them, winning behind closed doors next week is no guarantee that they will win on the floor.
Already, the bad blood of Jordan losing his status as the speaker designee seemed to be stirring up problems with the Republicans who ousted McCarthy.
Far-right Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), the chief architect of the crisis that led to McCarthy’s ouster, decried the outcome of the secret vote on Friday.
“The most popular Republican in Congress was just knifed in an an anonymous vote in a secret closed door meeting in the basement of the Capitol,” he fumed in a post to X. “This is the Swamp at work.”