WASHINGTON — For a second time in two days, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, fell short of the 217 votes needed to be elected speaker, another serious blow to the Donald Trump-backed candidate’s chances of seizing the prized gavel.
Jordan, the GOP’s latest nominee for speaker, received 199 votes; that was one net vote fewer than he received on Tuesday and a sign that Jordan is bleeding support rather than winning over his detractors. Compared to the first ballot, he lost four votes, flipped two in his favor and added one who was initially absent.
Even as Jordan vowed to stay in the fight until he’s elected speaker, the vote tally raised new questions about whether the powerful Judiciary Committee chairman might bow out of the race and other speaker hopefuls might jump in.
Four members who voted for Jordan initially flipped on the second ballot, including Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, and Pete Stauber, R-Minn. Two others flipped in Jordan’s favor: Reps. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif, and Victoria Spartz, R-Ind. He added one vote, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla, who was absent Tuesday.
Wednesday marks the 15th day the House has been without a speaker. Lawmakers are growing increasingly worried about not being able to supply Ukraine and Israel with fresh aid packages amid their wars, and a new government shutdown threat is now less than a month away.
Jordan’s defectors on both ballots include swing-district members, like Reps. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, R-Ore., and Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., as well as senior lawmakers on the powerful Appropriations Committee, including Chair Kay Granger, R-Texas, and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., nominated Jordan on Wednesday and mentioned his opposition to removing former Speaker Kevin McCarthy two weeks ago.
“The last two weeks have vindicated that observation. But we have a chance today to end that chaos, end that uncertainty,” he said, stressing that Jordan has a “spine” in “great abundance.”
The turmoil and uncertainty has sparked growing chatter about a fallback solution: empowering Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. the acting speaker, to temporarily conduct business for the House.
The idea has been pushed for days by Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio. His colleague, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., who voted against Jordan on Tuesday, introduced a resolution to give McHenry powers for one month, which would dissolve if a speaker is elected by then.
Kelly said that if McHenry is elevated, “the House will be able to hold votes necessary to fund the government” ahead of a Nov. 17 deadline to prevent a shutdown.
That idea may win some Democratic support. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., opened the door as he entered the chamber.
“We’ll have to review it, but all options are on the table to end the Republican civil war,” Jeffries said. “We’ve been saying from the very beginning, that we want a bipartisan path forward. That does not involve Jim Jordan, who is a poster child for Republican extremism and a danger to our democracy.”
McHenry wouldn’t engage Tuesday with questions on whether he’d support an enhancement of his power.
Nominating Jeffries again on Wednesday, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., quipped that he would shorten his speeches if the House could reach a compromise, but that he wasn’t optimistic it’d happen.
He noted that a day earlier, Jeffries got 212 votes and Jordan got 200.
“No amount of election denying is going to take away from those vote totals,” Aguilar said. “The country can’t afford more delays and more chaos. Fifteen days should be enough.”