US House fails to elect new speaker in second vote amid Republican infighting
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday failed to elect a new speaker in the second round of voting, as Right-wing Republican Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, lost more votes from his own party compared with the first round amid continued Republican infighting.
Jordan won 199 votes out of the 221 House Republicans, losing 22 Republican votes in the second round of full-chamber voting, compared with 20 Republican defections in the first round on Tuesday, indicating mounting resistance within the party and casting doubt about the way forward.
Four Republicans who voted for him on Tuesday defected in the second round, while he picked up support from two others and secured another vote from the member who was absent for the first ballot.
Among the 22 Republican holdouts, five voted for former speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was removed from the position two weeks ago, and seven voted for House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who previously won the Republican speakership nomination but failed to unite the party and dropped out of the race.
Three voted for former Representative Lee Zeldin, who is not a member of Congress at this time. One cast his vote for former House Speaker John Boehner, who was forced to retire early in 2015 by threats of ouster from right-flank insurgents like those who toppled McCarthy.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic nominee, received all 212 votes from his party. Both Jordan and Jeffries fell shy of the 217 majority needed to become the next House speaker.
With a slim 221-212 Republican majority in the chamber, Jordan can only afford to lose four votes from Republicans if all members are present in order to reach the majority threshold and win the gavel.
"Threats and intimidation tactics will not change my principles and values," Republican Congresswoman Jen Kiggans wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, alluding to the pressure campaign that has been unleashed on Republican holdouts by Jordan's allies. Kiggans voted for McCarthy in both rounds of voting.
Jordan, co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, is considered a far-right figure within the Republican party, and has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump. The Ohio Republican advocates for deep spending cuts, enhanced border security, and has been a prominent player in the impeachment investigation opened against President Joe Biden.
"If Jordan becomes speaker, it will signal Republicans putting a hardliner in charge of the House and someone who is used to confrontational politics. A number of Republican House members seem to have doubts about having a far-right member in charge," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
The House can't move forward on its legislative process until a speaker is chosen, and lawmakers need to pass a spending bill before government funding runs out in mid-November. The House is also under pressure to take action amid the escalating Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The failed two rounds of ballots could bolster the push to empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry, allowing him to oversea the passage of urgently needed legislation, until House Republicans can coalesce and elect a new leader.
The latest chaos came after the unprecedented ouster of McCarthy, who was booted out of his position in a move initiated by a conservative member of his own party. It marked the first time in US history that a sitting House speaker has been voted out of office.
In January's speaker election, McCarthy clawed his way to victory by cutting a deal with conservatives after a grueling four days and 15 rounds of voting.