WASHINGTON (AP) — With a push by allies of Donald Trump, far-right firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan appeared Monday to be shoring up support to become U.S. House speaker, winning over reluctant Republicans who have few options left two weeks after Kevin McCarthy’s ouster.
One by one, Jordan, the hard-charging Judiciary Committee chairman, has been peeling off detractors who have viewed the Ohio Republican as too extreme. A major pressure campaign from Trump allies including Steve Bannon and Fox News’ Sean Hannity has helped build support.
But Tuesday’s scheduled floor vote could turn into a showdown as remaining holdouts refuse to back Jordan. After a private late-night meeting at the Capitol turned into a venting session of angry Republicans, he acknowledged: “We’ve got a few more people to talk to, listen to.”
“The American people deserve to have their Congress and House of Representatives working, and you can’t have that happen until you get a speaker,” Jordan said after the Monday night meeting.
The political climb has been steep for Jordan, a former outsider and a founding member of the right-flank Freedom Caucus who is now just votes away from a seat central to U.S power. House Republicans have watched their majority control of the chamber descend into chaos since McCarthy’s sudden removal from the job Oct. 3. All House business has ground to a halt.
To seize the gavel, second in line to the presidency, Jordan will need almost the full majority of his colleagues behind him in a House floor vote, as Democrats are certain to back their own nominee, Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York. A handful of holdouts, if not more, remain.
Jordan fell more than 50 votes short during internal party voting last Friday, after Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the party’s first nominee to replace McCarthy, abandoned his own nomination after failing to unify the Republicans.
But Jordan can rely on Trump’s backing as well as pressure on colleagues from an army of grass-roots activists who recognize him from cable news and fiery performances at committee hearings. Republicans say it will be hard for rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose him in a public floor vote.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who engineered McCarthy’s ouster by a handful of hardliners, publicly praised each lawmaker who has flipped to Jordan’s column — and berated those who have not.
“Thank you Rep. Ann Wagner!” Gaetz posted on social media, after the Missouri Republican announced her support.
Wagner announced her support saying she and Jordan had spoken Monday morning at length, “and he has allayed my concerns about keeping the government open with conservative funding, the need for strong border security, our need for consistent international support in times of war and unrest.”
Others also announced their support, including the House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers of Alabama. Picking up those two backers, Jordan said earlier Monday, was “really big.”
Still, it could take multiple rounds during House floor voting scheduled to start at noon on Tuesday as several Republicans still are refusing to back Jordan. With the House Republican majority narrowly held 221-212 he can only afford to lose a few votes to reach the 217 majority threshold, if there are no absences.
One holdout, Republican Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado said Jordan’s role in the runup to Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and his refusal to admit President Joe Biden won the 2020 election remained an issue.
“I’m going to have a conversation with Jim and talk to him about my concerns,” Buck said.
“Jim, at some point, if he’s going to lead this conference during the presidential election cycle and particularly in a presidential election year … is going to have to be strong and say Donald Trump didn’t win the election and we need to move forward.”
Democrats have decried the far-right shift calling Jordan the leader of the chaos wing of the GOP.
The Democratic whip, Rep. Katherine Clark, said her party is trying to stop Republicans from putting “an insurrectionist in the speaker’s chair.”
Jordan has been a top Trump ally particularly during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by the former president’s backers trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.
“Jim Jordan is an insurrectionist who has no place being second in line to the presidency,” said Michael Fanone, a former District of Columbia police officer who was wounded fighting the mob on Jan. 6. “This is a very dark time for our democracy and should serve as a wakeup call to all Americans that we can never take our democracy for granted.”
Jordan, who was personally visiting some lawmakers’ offices Monday, has been a staunch defender of Trump as the former president faces four separate indictments, including allegations of election fraud in the runup to the Jan. 6 attack.
Now the Republican Party’s frontrunner to challenge Biden in the 2024 election, Trump backed Jordan to replace McCarthy early on, and was working against Scalise’s nomination last week.
Tensions remained high among Republicans ahead of voting. Rank-and-file Republicans are exhausted by the internal party infighting with no other work being done in Congress.
Some Republicans resent being pressured by Jordan’s allies and say they are being threatened with primary opponents if they don’t support him as speaker. One aide said their office received an email from Hannity’s team pushing Jordan.
Others are simply upset at the way the whole process has dragged out. “I think we still need conversations,” said Rep, Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa.
Jordan also faces questions about his past. Some years ago, Jordan denied allegations from former wrestlers during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University who accused him of knowing about claims they were inappropriately groped by an Ohio doctor. Jordan has said he was never aware of any abuse.
Gaetz on Bannon’s podcast Monday said purging the party of those who don’t support Trump’s vision could be the “greatest blessing” to come from the weeks since McCarthy’s ouster.
Holdout Republicans are wary of promoting Jordan at a time of major challenges for the country. Congress must fund the government by Nov. 17 or risk a federal shutdown, and the White House is asking lawmakers to provide supplemental funding for Ukraine and Israel in the wars abroad.
Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.