US lawmakers rejected hard-line conservative Jim Jordan’s bid for speaker of the US House of Representatives for a second time on Wednesday, as the leadership vacuum paralysing Washington entered 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 October 3 — unable to address a looming government shutdown or war in the Middle East.
Jim Jordan, an acolyte of scandal-engulfed Donald Trump, could only afford to lose four Republicans, 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 Republican aides hoping the urgent need for Congress to respond would unite the fractured party.
But Mr 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.”
Mr Jordan’s second defeat compounded growing angst around the speaker’s race and disarray within the Republican Party, with no immediate plans for a third vote and many — including Valadao — pushing to expand the limited powers of the largely ceremonial caretaker speaker.
No clear alternative
Jim Jordan, the chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee, will be expected to show significant progress if he takes the contest to a third round, but the holdouts appear to be dug in.
His Republican opponents met after voting against him for the first time Tuesday and nearly all reaffirmed their objections, with some predicting Jordan would only hemorrhage more support.
The Ohio lawmaker has little of the goodwill among the rank-and-file that McCarthy spent years cultivating and it is unlikely that they would indulge him in the 15 rounds of voting that it took to get his predecessor elected.
Party strategists worry that Jordan going backwards could herald days of further deadlock, as there is no obvious alternative with the support and the profile to corral a party that has become synonymous with division and dysfunction.
“And why run for the mayor of a city that’s just been nuked?” asked online politics outlet Punchbowl News.
There is momentum behind a push to formally appoint caretaker speaker Patrick McHenry for a limited period of perhaps a few months — expanding his purely ceremonial powers so that he can bring legislation to the floor.
“After two weeks without a speaker of the House and no clear candidate with 217 votes in the Republican conference, it is time to look at other viable options,” Ohio congressman Dave Joyce said in a statement reported by politics newspaper The Hill.
“By empowering Patrick McHenry as Speaker Pro Tempore we can take care of our ally Israel until a new Speaker is elected.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)