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Jordan out of speaker race; as new candidates line up, GOP ‘in a very bad position,’ McCarthy warns

Jim Jordan walks away from a lectern
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) leaves after meeting with reporters.
(J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
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Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan ended his campaign for speaker Friday after he failed for the third time to secure a majority on the House floor and his Republican colleagues voted, by secret ballot, that he should not press on.

Reps. Austin Scott of Georgia, Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, Pete Sessions of Texas, Byron Donalds of Florida and Jack Bergman of Michigan all announced Friday afternoon that they will seek the speakership, which has been vacant since a group of eight rebel Republicans, joined by Democrats, voted to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) from his post on Oct. 3.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who has not formally announced a run for speaker, earned McCarthy’s endorsement anyway.

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Emmer is “the right person for the job,” McCarthy, who had nominated Jordan for speaker Friday morning, said in a statement Friday afternoon. “He can unite the conference. He understands the dynamics of the conference. He also understands what it takes to win and keep a majority.”

Emmer is the only person in GOP leadership likely to seek the speakership.

Lawmakers from both parties have called on the House to choose a leader as soon as possible so that it can address pressing matters, including sending aid to U.S. allies Israel and Ukraine and approving government funding, which will run out in the middle of next month.

But with the House set to enter its fourth week without a leader, none of the new Republican candidates had a particularly clear path to the gavel.

The Republican majority has not been able to elect a leader of the lower chamber since the Oct. 3 ouster of California Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Oct. 19, 2023

Both Jordan, the chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee and former President Trump’s pick for speaker, and Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, long the House’s second-ranking Republican, have already failed to secure the post. Not one of the new candidates — even Emmer — has the profile or fundraising prowess of the two men who already failed.

Even McCarthy, whose historic removal triggered the GOP’s civil war, only gained his often-tenuous grip on party leadership after 15 votes on the House floor in January.

Republicans are “in a very bad position as a party,” McCarthy said Friday. “The amount of damage they have done to this party and to this country is insurmountable,” he said, referring to the GOP members who led the vote to oust him more than two weeks ago. “I’m concerned about where we go from here,” he added.

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Republicans plan to hold a candidate forum, their second in as many weeks, at 6:30 p.m. Monday. Lawmakers have until noon Sunday to declare their candidacy.

Jordan had argued that he offered the best chance for Republicans to break the impasse triggered by McCarthy’s ouster.

But opposition to Jordan grew throughout his candidacy. Twenty Republicans voted against him the first time he tried to win the gavel on Tuesday. Twenty-two broke ranks on Wednesday, and by Friday, the number of defectors had swelled to 25.

Jordan’s Friday vote total of 194 was a new modern low for a majority party’s nominee for speaker, as Democrats again voted unanimously for their nominee, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

After Jordan’s third loss Friday, seven of the Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy — Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs and Eli Crane of Arizona, Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Bob Good of Virginia, Matthew M. Rosendale of Montana and Nancy Mace of South Carolina — circulated a letter to their colleagues saying they would compromise for the good of the conference.

But after the rebels circulated their letter, Republicans gathered for a private meeting, where they voted by secret ballot on whether Jordan should continue to pursue the speakership. The vote tally was 112 to 86 against Jordan.

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“We need to come together and figure out who our speaker is going to be,” Jordan said after the meeting. “I’m gonna work as hard as I can to help that individual so that we can go help the American people.”

Gaetz, who led the charge against McCarthy, blamed “the swamp” for Jordan’s defeat.

Hard-line Republicans joined with Democrats to remove the Bakersfield Republican from the speaker’s chair.

Oct. 3, 2023

“The most popular Republican in the United States Congress was just knifed by a secret ballot, in a private meeting, in the basement of the Capitol,” he told reporters. “It’s as swampy as swamp gets, and Jim Jordan deserved better than that.”

If no Republican candidate for speaker can secure a majority of the House, lawmakers could vote to empower temporary Speaker Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), who has led the chamber in a mostly ceremonial role since McCarthy’s ouster, to advance legislation, including new aid for Israel and Ukraine or even a government funding bill.

Democrats have said they might support such a plan. But Republicans considered, and then discarded, the idea on Thursday.

Logan reported from Washington and Pinho from Los Angeles.

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