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Jordan comes up short on Speaker vote, will try again

WASHINGTON (AP) — Having lost the first vote to become House speaker, Rep. Jim Jordan will try again on a decisive second ballot that will test whether the hard-edged ally of Donald Trump can win over the holdouts or if his bid for the gavel is collapsing, denied by detractors.

Ahead of Wednesday morning’s voting, Jordan made an unexpected plea for party unity, the combative Judiciary Committee chairman telling his colleagues on social media, “we must stop attacking each other and come together.”

But a surprisingly large and politically diverse group of 20 Republicans rejected Jordan’s nomination, many resisting the hardball tactics enforcing support, and viewing the Ohio congressman as too extreme for the powerful position of House speaker, second in line to the presidency.

Additional voting Tuesday was postponed as the House hit a standstill, stuck while Jordan worked to shore up backing from Republican colleagues for the job to replace the ousted Kevin McCarthy.

“We’re going to keep working,” Jordan said late Tuesday at the Capitol.

Alabama delegation

Alabama’s six GOP House members voted Tuesday for Jordan.

“He is the conservative leader we need so we can get to work delivering results for the American people,” Rep. Jerry Carl, R-Mobile, said on X after Tuesday’s vote. “It’s time to come together as a party, get our country back on track, and hold (President Joe Biden) accountable.”

Rep. Dale Strong, R-Huntsville, shared a similar message, saying Jordan is the leader the House needs to hold Biden accountable “and deliver conservative wins for the people of North Alabama.”

On CBS 42 Tuesday morning, Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said he thought Jordan would get the votes Wednesday if not Tuesday.

“I do think this is the time where everybody has got to come together, rally around a speaker,” Aderholt said. “As you know the world is literally burning down around us and it’s imperative that we move forward with our business in the House of Representatives.”

Along with all of her Democrat colleagues, Rep. Terri Sewell of Birmingham voted for Democrat Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

“The American people deserve better than MAGA extremist Jim Jordan as Speaker,” Sewell said on social media, sharing a compilation video that called Jordan “chairman of the chaos caucus” and a “political terrorist.”

It’s been two weeks of angry Republican infighting since McCarthy’s sudden removal by hard-liners, who are now within reach of a central seat of U.S. power. The vote for House speaker, once a formality in Congress, has devolved into another bitter showdown for the gavel.

The tally, with 200 Republicans voting for Jordan and 212 for the Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, left no candidate with a clear majority, as the 20 Republicans voted for someone else. With Republicans in majority control 221-212, Jordan must pick up most of his GOP foes to win.

Jeffries swiftly intervened, declaring it was time for Republicans to partner with Democrats to reopen the House — in what would be an extraordinary if not unprecedented moment in congressional history.

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers have been floating ways to operate the House by giving greater power to the interim speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., or another temporary speaker. The House had never ousted its speaker before McCarthy, and the lawmakers are in rarely tested terrain.

“The Republicans are unable to function right now,” said Jeffries. He said talks would “accelerate” between Democrats and Republicans on alternative plans.

Late Tuesday, the novel concept was gaining favor with a pair of surprising high-profile Republicans: Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker, said while he likes Jordan, he has “no faith” the nominee can get much beyond the 200 votes he won in the first vote.

“We can’t sit around and suck our thumbs and hope the world will wait until the House Republicans get their act together,” Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on his show.

John Boehner, another former GOP speaker, reposted Gingrich’s views saying, “I agree,” on social media.

The two men have deep experience with the subject. Both were chased to early retirement by threats of ouster from right-flank insurgents like those who toppled McCarthy.

But with public pressure bearing down on lawmakers from Trump’s allies, including Hannity, it’s unclear how long the holdouts against Jordan can last. Already, some lawmakers said their first vote was merely a protest, and they would be with Jordan on next rounds.

“Jim Jordan will be a great speaker,” the former president said outside a courthouse in Manhattan, where he is facing business fraud charges. “I think he’s going to have the votes soon, if not today, over the next day or two.”

Flexing their independence, the holdouts are a mix of pragmatists — ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing, to newer lawmakers from districts where voters back home prefer President Joe Biden to Trump.

Some Republicans resent being pressured by Jordan’s allies and say they are being threatened with primary opponents if they don’t support him as speaker. Others are simply upset at the way the whole process has dragged out.

As Tuesday’s somber roll call was underway, each lawmaker announcing their choice, the holdouts quickly surfaced.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a leader of the centrists, voted for McCarthy, the ousted former speaker. Murmurs rippled through the chamber. Others voted for Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who was the party’s first nominee to replace McCarthy before he, too, was rejected by hardliners last week.

One, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a veteran appropriator, said later that he would not be “pressured or intimidated” over his vote. “That millisecond when anybody tries to intimidate me is the moment where I no longer have the flexibility.”

Another holdout, Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, said Jordan’s role in the runup to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and his refusal to admit that Biden, a Democrat, won the 2020 election remained an issue.

Jordan has been a top Trump ally, particularly during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by the former president’s backers who were trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.

The political climb has been steep for Jordan, the combative Judiciary Committee chairman and a founding member of the right-flank Freedom Caucus. He is known more as a chaos agent than a skilled legislator, raising questions about how he would lead. Congress faces daunting challenges, risking a federal shutdown at home if it fails to fund the government and fielding Biden’s requests for aid to help Ukraine and Israel in the wars abroad.

Immediately after the vote, Jordan conferred with McCarthy, who fared nearly as badly in January, having lost almost as many votes on the first of what would become a historic 15 ballots for the gavel.

First elected in 2006, Jordan has few bills to his name from his time in office. He also faces questions about his past. Some years ago, Jordan denied allegations from former wrestlers during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University who accused him of knowing about claims they were inappropriately groped by an Ohio doctor. Jordan has said he was never aware of any abuse.

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