US lawmakers rejected hardline conservative Jim Jordan’s bid for speaker of the House of Representatives for a second time on Wednesday (Oct 18), as the leadership vacuum paralysed Washington for a 15th day with no clear resolution in sight.
The lower chamber of Congress has been in a tailspin since Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted by his party’s far right on Oct 3 – leaving it unable to address a looming government shutdown or war in the Middle East.
Jordan, an acolyte of scandal-engulfed Donald Trump, could only afford to lose four Republican votes, but 22 of his colleagues rejected his candidacy in the second ballot – two more than were against him a day earlier.
The Israel-Hamas conflict, a renewed push for aid to Ukraine and the threat of a government shutdown have dramatically upped the stakes, with Republicans hoping the urgent need for Congress to respond would unite the fractured party.
But Jordan’s centrist colleagues, already wary of his hard-right politics, voiced irritation over a concerted effort to whip extra votes for the 59-year-old former wrestling champion.
“Each day that passes without a speaker of the House is a national security risk,” said Jordan supporter and California Republican David Valadao.
“I voted for the Republican Conference’s nominee for speaker because we must get back to work, and we cannot do that until we have a speaker.”
Jordan’s second defeat compounded the angst over Republican disarray, prompting a growing group of lawmakers – including Valadao – to push for the limited powers of the current, largely ceremonial caretaker speaker to be expanded.
But Jordan showed no signs of dropping out, as his spokesman Russell Dye vowed to reporters that the congressman would “keep going”, with the next round expected on Thursday.
NO CLEAR ALTERNATIVE
Jordan’s tally of 199 votes marked the first time in a century that the majority’s nominee had dipped under 200.
The powerful Judiciary Committee chairman will be expected to show significant improvement in the third round of voting, yet the holdouts appear to be dug in.
His Republican opponents met after voting against him for the first time on Tuesday and nearly all reaffirmed their objections, with some predicting Jordan would only hemorrhage more support.