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U.S. House pauses for the night before another attempt to elect a speaker

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sits with Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, right, as Republicans try to elect him to be the new House speaker, at the Capitol on Tuesday. Behind him is former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, sits with Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, right, as Republicans try to elect him to be the new House speaker, at the Capitol on Tuesday. Behind him is former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Updated October 17, 2023 at 5:41 PM ET

The U.S. House is pausing to collect itself before launching into a second round of voting on its speaker.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, failed to win enough votes to be elected speaker on the first ballot Tuesday. The House is expected to meet again on Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET.

Jordan and his allies anticipated they could face more than one round of votes, and they are continuing to work to win over the Republicans who remain opposed to Jordan's leadership.

How the first round of votes went

Tuesday afternoon the House voted 200 to 232, with 20 Republicans voting against Jordan. Several members voted for previous candidates for the job, including former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

It was clear within the first 10 minutes of the lengthy and occasionally raucous vote that Jordan did not have the support to win the first round. Jordan will have to convince virtually every Republican to support him in order to win the gavel.

Every member of the House who was present in Washington was called to the chamber ahead of the vote. They filled nearly every seat, standing to occasionally cheer and jeer.

Members still supporting Scalise and McCarthy offered weak applause or cheers when fellow objectors voted against Jordan. But the biggest GOP applause came when Scalise and McCarthy stood to back the party's current nominee for the job.

The holdouts include members who objected to Jordan's record, those who fear Jordan could alienate voters in critical swing districts and some who remain angry that McCarthy was removed in the first place. A large share of the objections came from members on the Appropriations and Armed Services Committees — two groups who are deeply skeptical that Jordan will agree to basic governance tasks like funding the government or fulfilling military expenditure requests.

Members from those groups huddled in corners as they waited for the House clerk to officially end the first round of votes.

The vote followed a tense morning as members filed into the chamber. Jordan and his allies filed in and out of the official office for the speaker of the House still bearing a sign with McCarthy's name on it. The stately suite of offices has become a regular meeting place for Republicans in the past several weeks as they struggled to agree on a leader to unite them.

Tourists and guides cracked jokes as they passed the door that maybe Tuesday would finally be the day that the McCarthy sign came down. It appears it will stand another day.

Republicans are under pressure to end the chaos

The next speaker will immediately face decisions about military aid to Ukraine and Israel, funding for border security and an upcoming deadline to fund the government by Nov. 17.

Jordan spent the hours leading up to the vote continuing a sweeping campaign to convince Republicans to back him. He and his allies have spent the past several days working to convince skeptics that he can move beyond his history as a disruptive outsider to lead the fractured party in a consequential election year.

"The American people deserve to have their Congress, the House of Representatives working," Jordan told reporters in the Capitol on Monday night. "We can't have that until we have a speaker."

Republicans held one final closed-door meeting Monday night for members to share their frustrations, grievances and questions for Jordan. Many left unconvinced that Jordan is the right person to lead their party, despite increasing pressure for members to choose a leader and move forward.

Jordan was endorsed by former President Trump and the vote on his speakership is viewed by many as a public loyalty test for the party.

Holdouts remain unconvinced Jordan can lead

Rep. Mike Lawler was one of several New York Republicans to vote against Jordan. Asked about his vote after the first ballot, Lawler told reporters: "Kevin McCarthy never should have been removed as speaker." He did not comment on whether anything could sway him toward Jordan in future rounds.

Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., said he thought some members who voted against Jordan would support him on subsequent votes.

"I think a lot of people make a protest vote the first go-round – and I get that," he said. "They want folks to know where they're at, and they want their needs addressed, and that's part of the system."

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., told reporters ahead of the vote that he planned to vote McCarthy, saying it's "unacceptable" for a small minority of the majority dictating actions of the conference.

Bacon, who represents a district that President Biden won in 2020, voiced concerns about fellow Republicans not "playing by the rules."

"It's not about Jim – it's about Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise and how they were treated," Bacon said. "I respect people have different opinions on this. We need a speaker. We've got a world on fire. But we didn't put us there — I didn't put us there. The small group that took out Kevin and then blocked Steve have put us in this spot."

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., also said he will not support Jordan on the floor. Buck has raised concerns about Jordan's role in fueling conspiracy theories that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

"I do think that the the 20 Republicans who are in Biden districts have a problem if everybody in leadership is saying the election is stolen," Buck told reporters Monday.

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Lexie Schapitl is a production assistant with NPR's Washington Desk, where she produces radio pieces and digital content. She also reports from the field and assists with production of the NPR Politics Podcast.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.
Tyler Bartlam
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