Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan is voicing confidence that he’ll be able to avoid becoming the latest Republican to be rejected by an increasingly divided conference. | Francis Chung/POLITICO
Rep. Jim Jordan is racing to shore up his speaker bid, as his supporters urge him to take the fight to the House floor early next week to build public pressure on his skeptics.
The Ohio Republican told POLITICO that he wants to be able to go to the floor on Tuesday, giving him a matter of days to try to flip more than 50 GOP lawmakers who signaled in a secret ballot vote on Friday that they won’t support him.
It’s an uphill climb and one that Jordan is trying to pull off in record time. It took former Speaker Kevin McCarthy almost two months of behind-the-scenes maneuvering to be ultimately crowned in January. And Jordan is facing a steeper lift compared to the California Republican who started off with 188 supporters, with some of his colleagues already warning that if he can’t figure out the math by early next week they should move on to someone else.
But Jordan is voicing confidence that he’ll be able to avoid becoming the latest Republican to be rejected by an increasingly divided conference, where frustrations remain high after eight GOP lawmakers joined with Democrats to oust McCarthy and Majority Leader Steve Scalise scrapped his own speaker bid less than 48 hours after a majority of the conference picked him as their next leader.
“We think we’re going to get 217,” Jordan said in a brief interview.
But some of his supporters are publicly pushing for him to try to publicly smoke out his opponents by forcing a vote on the House floor next week even if he doesn’t have the votes as they try to build public pressure against his skeptics. Meanwhile others are urging their backers to flood the phone lines of the dozens of holdouts between now and early next week. Jordan, asked if he would go to the floor if he didn’t have 217 votes, didn’t rule out the possibility, instead predicting that he would be able to get there.
Jordan “should fight this through all the way. The status quo will try to push back in the coming days. If a bunch of deficit appropriators and defense establishment bureaucrats want to fight, well game on,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).
And Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) in a tweet on Friday night that appeared directed at Jordan’s opponents added: “You guys want to go 15 rounds? Fine. Let’s do it. On the floor. … You want to explain to your voters why you blocked Jordan? Then bring it.”
That strategy has sparked pushback in other corners of the conference, who have warned they would see it as an attempt to bully the holdouts for not backing Jordan.
“What happens when Jordan forces us to the floor to try to pressure us and all of a sudden we don’t show up and Hakeem Jeffries is speaker cause he wanted to be a bully?” one House Republican asked.
With most Republicans out of town until Monday evening, Jordan is working the phones to try to sway some of his dozens of holdouts who signaled their opposition to the Ohio lawmaker in an anonymous secret ballot. He’s also deputized allies throughout the conference to conduct outreach on his behalf.
“We’re going to talk to colleagues,” Jordan said. “[And] we’ve got a lot of colleagues helping us make calls. Talking with members.”
Some of those allies were spotted leaving his office Friday night after the days-long speaker drama including Reps. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Wis.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Mike Carey (R-Ohio). Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), who ran against Jordan for the speakership nominee, has also pledged to try to help flip some of his backers to support the Ohio Republican.
Jordan also met on Friday night with a GOP lawmaker viewed as a key vote: Rep. Mike Lawler, one of the conference’s most vulnerable Biden-district Republicans. Lawler has been tightlipped about if he would back Jordan, and spokespeople for the New York Republican didn’t respond to a request for comment on his position.
But there’s latent skepticism within corners of the House GOP that Jordan, who shot through the party ranks as a conservative bomb thrower but emerged as a key ally to McCarthy, will be able to win over a well of centrists, Scalise supporters and others.
“I think he’s gonna have a serious problem getting the numbers,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who voted against Jordan on Friday and has signaled it is unlikely he’ll support him on the floor.
Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) said that Jordan should get a few days to see if he can gather up enough support but added that “everything is on the table” as the GOP tries to find their next speaker.
“It just may be somebody who is tolerable for everybody,” Murphy said. “The question is how do you corral a bunch of cats.”
And several Republicans have signaled that they remain “no” votes on Jordan, including Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.) and Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.). Gimenez and Rutherford are part of a coalition of lawmakers making a long-shot bid to try to get McCarthy back the gavel — even as the California Republican backs Jordan.
“I’m a no on allowing Matt Gaetz and the other seven to win by putting their individual in as speaker,” Rutherford told reporters on Friday.
“Chairman Jordan has made it clear that he wants to unite the conference in order to pass the bills that the American people expect by giving Israel the resources they need to destroy Hamas, securing the border, and reforming FISA. He is looking forward to working with the entire conference to do so when he’s speaker,” said Jordan spokesperson Russell Dye.
Part of Jordan’s challenge is the deep frustration among McCarthy and Scalise backers who feel like some of the Ohio Republican’s supporters tanked the two men even though they had the support of a majority of the conference in a quest to get Jordan into the speaker’s office. And there is consternation over coronating Jordan because, some GOP lawmakers argue, it would reward that hardball strategy.
“When you reward bad behavior you get more of it. … It’s not really Jim’s fault. But the fact is that we reward people who broke the rules and didn’t support Steve, that means my vote didn’t count when I voted for Steve,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who noted that Jordan had reached out to him.
There could also be a political risk for vulnerable Republicans under a Jordan speakership, compared to Scalise or another less-well-known alternative, as Democrats prepare to make Jordan a political foil should he win the speakership.
Caucus Chair Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), who’d served on the select panel investigating the Capitol insurrection, told reporters Jordan was a “threat to democracy.”
“House Republicans are intent on doubling down and have chosen to nominate a vocal election denier in Jim Jordan,” Aguilar said. “A man whose rhetoric and partisanship fomented the January 6 attack on this very building, on these very steps.”
Katherine Tully-McManus, Daniella Diaz and Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.