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Republican Rep. Jim Jordan has dropped his bid to become speaker of the House

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

It has been 17 days without a speaker of the House, leaving Congress paralyzed to act on anything. Earlier today Ohio Republican Jim Jordan tried and failed to rally support for his nomination. On a third ballot, his opposition grew to 25 Republican votes against him. Republicans then met behind closed doors and took secret ballots to see if lawmakers wanted Jordan to stay in the race. They did not, and Jordan dropped out.

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JIM JORDAN: But it's important we do unite. Let's figure out who that individual is, get behind him and get to work for the American people.

DETROW: Deposed former Speaker Kevin McCarthy told reporters there's no clear path forward.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: We are in a very bad position as a party.

DETROW: To talk more about this very bad position Republicans find themselves in. We are joined by NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh and political correspondent Susan Davis. Hey there.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Hey there.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

DETROW: So, Deirdre, I'll start with you. Jordan - hugely popular with the conservative base. He had Donald Trump's support. Why couldn't he close the deal with his own party?

WALSH: Jordan's own legislative record and his tactics really alienated a significant bloc of House Republicans. Jordan is one of the sort of most conservative, far-right members of the House Republican Conference. And he's really earned this reputation as somebody who tries to blow up deals. And he's opposed spending deals to avoid shutdowns. He's voted against bipartisan farm bills, emergency aid bills. And many House Republicans were skeptical that Jim Jordan was going to be the speaker who would be able to navigate this big negotiation in less than a month to avoid another shutdown. But I think the thing that really angered many of his colleagues over recent days is really just the aggressive tactics his allies in the House and in right-wing media used to try to coerce colleagues to vote for him. And this really expanded the opposition to him. You know, members were getting death threats, a lot of social media messages targeting them. Jordan condemned that. But many think he just didn't do enough to stop it.

DETROW: OK, so Kevin McCarthy is booted from the speakership. Majority Leader Steve Scalise is put forward by the party. He doesn't have enough votes. He pulls out. Jim Jordan now loses three ballots on the floor. He pulls out. Are there any members of the House Republican Conference with a feasible path right now to the speakership?

WALSH: I mean, that's the million-dollar question - if anyone can get the 217 votes needed. Already at least a half dozen or more House Republicans are running or making calls to be the next speaker. Some of the names include the current GOP whip, Tom Emmer from Minnesota, Oklahoma Republican Kevin Hern, who runs a large group of fiscal conservatives, Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson. And there's some other names. I mean, members coming out of the meeting this afternoon expected a lot of people to run. One House Republican already said the next 48 hours will be like drinking from a fire hose with all the people running and all the calls they're going to be getting.

DETROW: Sue, over to you. Part of this is a math problem, right? Republicans just have this narrow majority. They can only lose a few votes to advance anything in the House. But it seems like there's something else going on here. It seems like there is a deeper fracturing of the party.

DAVIS: Yeah. I mean, Kevin McCarthy told reporters after Jordan dropped out today that he's concerned about where the party can go from here. Jordan represents this wing of the party that was once seen as sort of fringe and is now much more mainstream inside the conference, and they've been empowered by people like McCarthy when he was speaker. And there's a real clash between these more revolutionary Republicans. They want to reshape the party. They want to reshape the country.

And they are clashing with what I would describe as the governing wing of the party. Jordan's chief detractors came from Appropriations Committee, Armed Services Committee, people who tend to produce big bipartisan bills. A lot of the people who voted against Jordan voted to certify the 2020 election, which he did not do. These are lawmakers who accept the reality of divided government and that Democrats will be needed to do things like pass these foreign aid bills and keep the government open.

And the revolutionary wing - they just want to resist it all. Lawmakers like Chip Roy of Texas see the governing wing of the party as being part of the very swamp they're trying to change. So these factions can absolutely coexist within a party. But it's much easier when you have a big majority. And right now there's just no real room for error. And they're landed in a very ungovernable place.

MCCARTHY: And again, 17 days now without a speaker of the House, with the House totally paralyzed. And meanwhile, Sue, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries continues to offer Democratic votes if - and a big if - Republicans would agree to bring legislation with bipartisan support to the floor. Republicans have rejected that offer. At a certain point, might they have to consider it?

DAVIS: You know, never say never. But Republicans met behind closed doors and debated this for hours yesterday, and there was pretty fierce opposition to it. They think it just looks like they would be handing over their majority to Democrats. It still seems like the absolute last option, and they're not there yet. I would note that the next hard deadline Congress faces is November 17. That's when the government shuts down. Hopefully, they can resolve the speaker fight before then, but that is the next real pressure point on Capitol Hill.

DETROW: Deirdre, 30 seconds left. As best as you can tell in this messy moment, what happens next?

WALSH: Well, House Republicans have until Sunday noon to declare if they're going to run for speaker. There's a candidate forum Monday night. House Republicans will vote Tuesday morning for their own nominee. It's unclear whether that will go to the floor right away, but we're into three weeks with the House with no speaker and no ability to function. And many really want to move on right now.

DETROW: That's NPR's Deirdre Walsh and Susan Davis. Thanks to both of you.

DAVIS: You're welcome.

WALSH: Thanks, Scott. 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
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.
Deirdre Walsh
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.
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