WASHINGTON — A “hodgepodge” of 25 entrenched GOP lawmakers on Friday blocked Rep. Jim Jordan from winning the speaker’s gavel for a third time, raising more doubts about whether the Donald Trump-backed candidate can remain in the race.
Jordan, an Ohio Republican and the Judiciary Committee chairman, received 194 votes, 21 votes short of the number he needed to be elected speaker on the House floor based on attendance. All 210 Democrats rallied behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
Jordan received five fewer votes than he did on the second ballot on Wednesday, a sign that things were trending in the wrong direction for his speaker bid.
“We are in a very bad place right now,” former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said leaving the floor.
“We are absolutely paralyzed and ungovernable as a conference,” added another House Republican who backs Jordan.
Jordan did not manage to win over any of his detractors on Friday, while three of his moderate supporters threw their support to other candidates in the roll call. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers, switched to Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., while vulnerable Reps. Tom Kean of New Jersey voted for McCarthy, and Marc Molinaro of New York cast his ballot for former Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.
Ahead of the vote, Molinaro said that he felt the best approach would be “to return to conference and select a conservative who can in fact unite the conference.”
“And by the way, allow Jim that opportunity to make that case,” he added. “Not by continued votes on the floor, but by a real conversation again at the conference.”
Rep. Derrick Van Orden, R-Wis., a Jordan backer, missed the vote as he traveled to Israel to examine conditions on the ground in their war with Hamas.
Unlike the conservative hard-liners who ejected McCarthy from the speaker’s office on Oct. 3 and scuttled Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s bid to succeed him, the bloc of anti-Jordan Republicans is comprised of a mix of moderates, conservatives, New Yorkers and Floridians, defense hawks and appropriators, including the powerful Appropriations Chair Kay Granger of Texas.
“This is more of a hodgepodge group,” said Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., who backs Jordan.
Following the vote, Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas was seen smoking a cigar and telling reporters that Jordan “does not have the votes.” Nehls, who supported Jordan in the first three votes, said his fourth vote will be for Trump.
House Republicans are now meeting behind closed doors to plot a path forward. Multiple lawmakers tell NBC News they are expecting to take a vote reaffirming Jordan as the conference’s speaker nominee during this meeting.
It was unclear, however, if there would be additional floor votes Friday afternoon or into the weekend. Republicans are concerned about attendance issues this weekend given their razor-thin majority after Van Orden and Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, missed Friday’s vote.
A day earlier, tensions boiled over during another private GOP meeting, with McCarthy and his allies screaming at Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the leader of the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy as speaker nearly three weeks ago.
On Friday, seven of the eight, whom McCarthy has dubbed the “Hateful Eight,” tried to make amends, sending a letter to colleagues saying they’d be willing to accept punishment — including censure or removal from the conference — if it would persuade holdouts to back Jordan.
“What unites us as Republicans is more important than our disagreements,” they wrote. “We must now come together to elect Jim Jordan.”
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