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The House is in recess after failed vote elect Jim Jordan as speaker

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Two weeks ago, the House voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Well, today they tried to vote to replace him with Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, but...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK MCHENRY: No person, having received a majority of the whole number of votes cast by surname - a speaker has not been elected.

CHANG: That's right. After 20 Republicans voted for someone else, the House has adjourned, and again, the chamber is frozen. Without a speaker, the House can't vote on aid to Israel or anything else. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh was in the chamber and joins us now from the Capitol. Hi, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK. So are we seeing the same movie again? I mean, we saw Republicans in January take - what? - 15 ballots to elect McCarthy as speaker. Is that Jordan's strategy - to keep voting and voting and voting until he wins?

WALSH: So Ailsa, they really hope there isn't a sequel to that movie. But, yes, Jordan is planning to continue to vote to try to get elected speaker. They decided to take the conversations behind closed doors. And Congressman Jordan came out and told reporters they're going to come back tomorrow morning and have a second vote. Jordan's allies did anticipate he could lose on the first ballot and knew it could take multiple rounds. But he has a lot of ground to make up. There are 221 Republicans, so he can really only lose four if they're all on the floor and voting. And he lost 20 on that first ballot. Democrats all voted for Hakeem Jeffries. Even Republicans who voted for Jordan admitted that was a higher number than they expected for him to lose.

CHANG: OK, so who were the 20 Republicans voting against Jordan? And do you think he can convince them to change their votes?

WALSH: He's working on that right now. He's trying to meet one-on-one with some of these. But the 20 were a mix of members who serve on the House Appropriations Committee, which handles spending bills, the House Armed Services Committee, who handles military issues. A lot of those members are concerned about Jim Jordan's record. I mean, he has opposed spending bills and been involved in standoffs that resulted in government shutdowns. He opposes more aid for Ukraine. Florida Republican Mario Diaz-Balart voted for Steve Scalise and told reporters after the vote he's still in the same place. He's a longtime member of the Appropriations Committee. And he was - I spotted him on the floor, huddling with some of his colleagues, clearly not supportive of Jordan.

I mean, there's some others who are mad about the way that McCarthy was ousted, and some voted for him. There was one Michigan Republican, John James, who voted for someone else. He told me he's worried about the needs of his district - things like a military base, infrastructure projects. But he said he was talking to Jordan. He said, we can work it out.

CHANG: OK. Well, are there any alternatives to Jordan right now?

WALSH: No. I mean, none of the people who actually got votes on the floor are even running for speaker. Many House Republicans tell me the same thing. They don't know anyone who can get 217 votes right now to get the gavel.

CHANG: Well, that's really unfortunate because one month from today, the federal government runs out of money. It could shut down. There's also a war in Israel. Can Congress address these issues without a speaker?

WALSH: No. Congress is paralyzed. I mean, lawmakers who support Jordan and people who opposed to him all agree this has gone on too long - two weeks. Constituents back home keep telling them the same thing - we just want the House to function. Over in the Senate today, they're talking about moving their own spending bills. They want to tie together aid to Ukraine and Israel. The White House is expected to send up a new request for emergency assistance, probably both for Ukraine and Israel. But even if they can move those bills in the Senate - and some of them have bipartisan support - none of these things can go anywhere until a House speaker is elected.

CHANG: That is NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh. Thank you so much, Deirdre.

WALSH: Thanks, Ailsa.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD AND GHOSTFACE KILLAH SONG, "STREET KNOWLEDGE") 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.

Deirdre Walsh
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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