Rep. Jim Jordan, the firebrand conservative from Ohio, appeared closer to becoming the next speaker of the House on Monday after mounting an aggressive pressure campaign over the weekend to gain the support of the 55 Republican holdouts skeptical of his ability to lead the chamber.
If he takes the gavel, it would be a remarkable ascent for the House Judiciary Committee chairman who built his political identity as a founding member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus and an attack dog for President Donald Trump who was once referred to as a “legislative terrorist.” He was a key ally in Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and he defied a subpoena during the congressional investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
But there are still members adamant in their opposition to Jordan, including Rep. Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Fla.), who has repeatedly said he only will back former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Members of the center-right Republican Governance Group estimate that there are as many as six hard noes against Jordan and potentially even more. Jordan could only afford to lose four votes on the floor.
Jordan, 59, on Friday became the second Republican in three days to win the conference’s nomination for speaker after the previous nominee, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), dropped out. Jordan immediately launched an intensive effort to flip the members who opposed his candidacy in a secret ballot.
An element of that pressure campaign is a public roll-call vote on the House floor that Jordan has scheduled for Tuesday, an attempt at daring his opponents to vote against him and incur the wrath of the far-right media and political ecosystem that is firmly behind him.
The move to a floor vote without a guarantee that he has the support is a reversal from early last week. Jordan was reluctant to put the party through another embarrassing public spectacle that could further divide the group, vowing to only go to the floor if he firmly had the backing of 217 Republicans — give or take one or two depending on attendance — to win the speakership.
But Jordan and his allies spent the weekend deploying strong-arm tactics to persuade the dozens of holdouts. His right-wing supporters on social media urged conservatives to call their representative about voting for Jordan. Jordan’s close friend, Fox News host Sean Hannity, called at least one swing district Republican to push a vote for Jordan, the lawmaker said, speaking, like others, on the condition of anonymity to detail sensitive conversations.
Jordan and his allies are betting that holdout Republicans will view a public vote against Jordan on the House floor as too risky, likely to engage the MAGA base and possibly risk a primary challenge from the right.
His hardball tactics seemed to be working.
By midday Monday, the tide started to turn for Jordan as powerful and influential House Republicans started to announce their support. In a key development, Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would support Jordan after previously saying he would not. Rogers had been resistant to Jordan’s skepticism of ballooning defense spending and additional Ukraine aid. But Rogers, the target of an aggressive social media campaign over the weekend by Jordan supporters, said he received a commitment from Jordan “to fund our government’s vital functions.”
After Rogers went public with his support, the dam began to break. Fervent supporters of Scalise, previously angry over his treatment by the Ohio Republican during the speaker nomination process, came out in support of Jordan, including Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), who said last week that she would never back Jordan. Her concerns have been “allayed,” she said in a statement.
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), who had been a Scalise ally, tweeted: “Just received a call from @Jim_Jordan and had a very productive conservation [sic]. I informed him that I will be offering my support on the House floor.”
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), a vulnerable swing-district Republican, shocked his colleagues when he announced he would back Jordan. “Let’s get to work,” he wrote on X, previously known as Twitter.
Two Republican lawmakers close to leadership acknowledged Monday afternoon that Jordan is close to shoring up the votes. If he doesn’t receive 217 Republicans on the first round, then they anticipate that he will do so in the second or shortly after.
“The noes are flipping fast,” one lawmaker said.
“Moderates always cave — a tale as old as time,” a second lawmaker said, referring to the more centrist faction of the party that is often willing to fall in line rather than blow up the process.
In a letter sent to the Republican conference on Monday, Jordan urged members to unite behind him on Tuesday and promised to bring “all Republicans together” by acquiescing to some demands brought up in the numerous closed-door gatherings the House GOP has held over the past two weeks. Those meetings, held ostensibly to draw the conference together, have become grievance sessions in which members have repeatedly expressed displeasure at leadership.
“You’ve been honest and open, and I appreciate the candid conversations,” Jordan said in the letter. “The role of a Speaker is to bring all Republicans together. That’s what I intend to do. We will make sure there are more Republican voices involved in our major decisions beyond the Five Families.”
The “five families” is a reference to representatives of the five ideological factions of the House whom McCarthy brought in to move forward on the legislative agenda.
Democrats are readying their political attacks and say that Jordan, who worked closely with Trump to try to overturn the 2020 election results, will be an effective foil to tie even more Republicans to a party that would be led by election deniers and extremists. Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, leading the rest of the field by double digits in polling.
House Majority Forward, a political nonprofit working to elect Democrats to the House, has launched robocalls in 11 Republicans lawmakers’ districts — most of them swing ones — to urge the recipients to vote against Jordan, pointing out his “extreme agenda.”
Some Republicans also privately acknowledged that they could lose their fragile majority. But, they argue, it may be a worthwhile risk to reopen the House and begin legislating.
Jordan, who joined the House in 2007, has been a stalwart of the hard right. He previously served as chair of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative House members.
The Ohio lawmaker also was one of eight House members who served on Trump’s defense team during the president’s first impeachment trial in the Senate. Before he left office, Trump awarded Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor. Jordan now chairs the powerful House Judiciary Committee, a role that has allowed him to launch investigations into President Biden.
If Jordan is elected as speaker on Tuesday, the House will end a two-week period of instability that has virtually frozen legislative procedure even as the mid-November deadline for a government shutdown nears.
Jordan’s strategy to flip his opponents was more stick than carrot. “Jordan’s team has the knives out,” said one House Republican who represents a swing district.
Still, Jordan’s tactics may be leaving a sour taste in the mouths of some moderate and swing-district Republicans who over the weekend voiced wariness over the intensity of the pressure campaign.
“Pressure makes people furious but also gets them to ‘yes,’ ” another Republican lawmaker said.