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News > U.S.

US House Fails to Elect New Speaker Amid Republican Infighting

  • House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (C).

    House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (C). | Photo: X/ @libe

Published 18 October 2023

Republican Jim Jordan, the co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, did not garner enough support from his own party.

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to elect a new speaker in the first round of voting amid continued Republican infighting, as the House remained paralyzed two weeks after the historical ouster of Kevin McCarthy.


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In a full-chamber vote Tuesday afternoon, right-wing Republican Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the Republican nominee for speaker, didn't garner enough support from his own party, with 20 Republican defections imperiling his speaker bid.


Jordan, co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is considered a far-right figure within the Republican party and has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Jordan won 200 votes from the 220 Republicans present, while House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic nominee, received all 212 votes from his party, with both falling shy of the 217 majority needed to become the next House speaker.

Republican Representative Elise Stefanik, who touted Jordan's leadership on the House floor, called the Ohio Republican a patriot and "an America First warrior who wins the toughest of fights."

Democratic Representative Pete Aguilar, however, argued that handing the speaker's gavel to "a vocal election denier" who incited violence in this chamber would be "a terrible message" at home and abroad.

Among the 20 Republican holdouts, six voted for former speaker Kevin Owen McCarthy, and seven voted for House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who previously won the Republican speakership nomination but failed to convince skeptics within the party and dropped out of the race.

Some Republicans were angry that McCarthy was ousted and Scalise was not supported by the whole conference. Others were worried that Jordan's rise would boost the influence of right-wing hardliners in the party, and his confrontational style could cause further chaos, potentially leading to a government shutdown.

"I can't get past the fact that a small group in our conference violated the rules to get rid of Kevin (McCarthy), and then blocked Steve (Scalise)," Nebraska Congressman Don Bacon said, noting that it's "unacceptable" for a small minority of the majority dictating actions of the Republican conference.

The latest chaos came after the unprecedented ouster of McCarthy, who was booted out of his position two weeks ago, in a move initiated by a member of his own party, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who argued McCarthy had not "fulfilled his promises" to conservatives.

With a slim 221-212 Republican majority in the chamber, a Republican nominee can afford to lose only a few votes from fellow members in order to reach the majority threshold and win the gavel.

The House can't move forward on its legislative process until a speaker is chosen, and lawmakers need to pass a spending bill before government funding runs out in mid-November. The House is also under pressure to take action amid the escalating Palestinian-Israeli conflict.


Speaker Pro Tempore Representative Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, quickly called the chamber to recess after the first round of voting. Jordan could hold multiple rounds of voting to persuade Republican holdouts to fall in line with certain compromises, just as McCarthy won the speaker race after a grueling 4 days and 15 rounds of voting.

While some argued that a few Republicans were just demonstrating their discontent in the first vote, and could switch to Jordan on subsequent balloting, others expected a continuation of bitter party infighting, as moderates and right-wing hardliners find it hard to meet halfway, and a pressure campaign that has been unleashed on Republican holdouts by Jordan's allies could backfire.

"It is hard to know how the Speaker race will go. Jordan lost 20 Republican votes on the first ballot, so it is not clear whether he can close the gap," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.

"If Jordan becomes Speaker, it will signal Republicans putting a hardliner in charge of the House and someone who is used to confrontational politics. A number of Republican House members seem to have doubts about having a far-right member in charge," said West.

The failed first ballot has prompted renewed discussions among lawmakers around a potential deal to give more power to McHenry, who is temporarily filling the speaker's chair until House Republicans can coalesce and elect a new leader.

If Jordan ends up securing enough votes within the Republican party and winning the House speakership, a government shutdown could follow, according to some observers.

"It looks like ending the prosecution of Donald Trump will be his highest priority. That is not going to happen, so we could have a very long government shutdown, which will be bad news for the economy," said Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former official at the International Monetary Fund, said that there is even less chance for bipartisan legislation than there was under McCarthy's speakership.

"Among other things, this heightens the chances of a government shutdown at the end of the month as Mr. Jordan is likely to demand spending cuts unacceptable to the Democrats. My expectation is that under Jordan's speakership, Congress will become even more dysfunctional than it has been over the past year," Lachman said.


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