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Rep. Jim Jordan fails second ballot for speaker

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And remember, everyone, there can be no aid to Israel until the House of Representatives elects a speaker, and lawmakers are no closer to doing that at this hour. A second ballot vote today saw opposition only grow against Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, with 22 lawmakers voting against him. That's two more opponents than on the first ballot taken yesterday. Lawmakers were told to go home after that, and another vote is possible tomorrow. Well, in the meantime, NPR political correspondent Susan Davis joins us. Hey, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so where do things stand right now for Jim Jordan?

DAVIS: He has a choice to make. He has to decide whether he wants to try and force a third ballot vote. But there is no indication from talking to any of these opponents that he can flip any of their votes. Arkansas Republican Congressman Steve Womack is one of the Republicans who voted against him on both the first and second ballot, and he told reporters he thinks this is very different than back in January, when Kevin McCarthy had to turn 20 votes to get the votes to become speaker. He said those Republicans were holding out because they wanted something. And in this case, these Republicans don't want anything from Jim Jordan.

CHANG: Huh.

DAVIS: There is no negotiation. There is no horse-trading. They just don't want him to be speaker.

Now, what's unclear - if Jim Jordan can't get to 217, which is the votes you need, and Majority Leader Steve Scalise dropped out because he did not believe he could get to 217...

CHANG: Right.

DAVIS: ...There's really no path for anyone to get to 217. So Republicans are in a bit of a mess. Womack even went...

CHANG: Yeah.

DAVIS: ...So far as to suggest that, hey, maybe Kevin McCarthy could just be speaker again.

CHANG: Oh, boy, not that again. OK, well, I know that there's a pressure campaign on these holdouts, especially in conservative media. Like, Fox News host Sean Hannity posted on social media for his followers to call their offices and demand that they vote for Jordan. How are lawmakers responding to that?

DAVIS: They're really mad about it. Texas Republican Kay Granger - she is the chair of the Appropriations Committee. That's the committee that writes all 12 spending bills. She described her vote against Jordan as one of conscience, and she said that, quote, "intimidation and threats will not change my position."

A lot of the holdouts here are senior lawmakers like Granger. Several of them have military service. A lot of the opposition is anchored in members who sit on the Appropriations and Armed Services Committee. These are lawmakers who are acutely aware of Jim Jordan's record of opposing spending bills and of his current skepticism of military aid to Ukraine.

Another notable element to this group, Ailsa, is that a third of them voted to certify the 2020 election results when the vast majority of Republicans did not, including Jim Jordan. And Jordan was a very close ally of former President Donald Trump on, after and during the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and at least one of his opponents, Ken Buck of Colorado, has cited that as part of the reason he remains opposed to him.

CHANG: Interesting. Well, meanwhile, I understand that Democrats continue to publicly offer their support for a Republican speaker, but only if Republicans are willing to enter a power-sharing deal with Democrats. So, I mean, given that Republicans are deadlocked with no end in sight, why don't they just take the Democrats up on their offer?

DAVIS: You know, politically, Republicans still say they need to elect a Republican speaker with Republican votes. That said, there is a conversation that is growing among some Republicans to try to empower the speaker pro tem - that's Patrick McHenry of North Carolina - to bring bills to the floor so they're not in this deadlock and not able to get anything done. There's some warming to the idea. But, frankly, you know, doing that would alleviate pressure to elect a speaker. And if doing that, you would need to get some support for Democrats, and that just seems really politically untenable for most Republicans to have to rely on Democrats to govern in the House.

CHANG: To be continued. That is NPR political correspondent Susan Davis. Thank you so much, Sue.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLYING LOTUS' "FF4") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.