As Jordan wobbles, House GOP eyes potential next speaker candidates

As Jordan wobbles, House GOP eyes potential next speaker candidates

Jim Jordan is vowing to keep fighting for the speakership despite losing ground on Tuesday’s second failed ballot. Other House Republicans, sensing his bid is doomed, are already preparing for his withdrawal.

As the Ohio Republican weighs whether to convene the GOP conference in private to discuss a path forward, at least one colleague — Rep. Jack Bergman (R-Mich.) — is already beginning to place calls to build support if the Judiciary chair drops out, according to three Republicans with direct knowledge of the matter.

“If as a conference we see he can’t get the necessary votes to become Speaker, General Bergman is prepared to step up,” Bergman spokesperson James Hogge said in a statement.

“The General isn’t seeking to climb the ladder, only steady it in a time of chaos — and would only seek to be Speaker for the remainder of the 118th Congress,” he added.

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), a member of House leadership, is also expected to run for the position if Jordan flames out, as POLITICO first reported last week. Axios first reported Bergman’s plans.

A series of other names have popped up on the House floor as alternative speaker hopefuls as Jordan continues to fall short, including Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) voting for Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) voting for Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).

House Republicans unhappy with the idea of Jordan taking the gavel have traded alternative names amongst themselves as well, including GOP Reps. Mark Green (Tenn.), Kevin Hern (Okla.) and Tom Cole (Okla.).

Cole and Acting Speaker Rep. Patrick McHenry (N.C.), who’s also mentioned as a potential permanent choice, have stated they don’t want the position. Hern flirted with entering the speaker’s race, including gauging the interest of his colleagues, before taking his name out of the running. He’s hinted that he could reconsider if Jordan can’t get to 217 votes and bows out, which could happen as soon as Thursday.

“We’ll have to cross that when it happens … if a member wants to nominate me I’m certainly not afraid to look at it,” Hern said.

None of those alternative contenders are expected to make public moves while Jordan is still in the race, knowing that doing so would likely hurt them with his supporters — whose votes they will need if they want to become speaker.

Jordan has vowed that he is staying in the race, meanwhile, even as Republicans are predicting that he could lose even more votes on a third ballot.

How many additional defections he could face is unclear. Twenty-two Republicans opposed him on the second ballot, and GOP lawmakers are predicting anywhere from another five to as many as 15 extra no votes on a third one — if he chooses to go that route.

Even some of Jordan’s supporters have acknowledged they could need to ultimately settle for someone else, floating names like Emmer and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). Former members like Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and even former speakers have been raised, though they aren’t considered serious options.

Amid the confusion about what comes next, other Republicans are pressing to extend McHenry’s powers as acting speaker while the gavel fight drags on.

There’s also chatter amongst some of their most ardent supporters of a resurgence of either former Speaker Kevin McCarthy or Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), but the two men share a similar problem: They can’t get to 217 within the House GOP conference.

Both face dug-in opponents — McCarthy in the form of the eight who helped oust him and Scalise from some of Jordan’s backers who blocked him last week — that make their return next to impossible.

Many Republicans also fear that centrist Republicans and Democrats will link arms to create a coalition government. Jordan’s allies have cited this possibility to try to lock in new support for the Freedom Caucus co-founder’s speaker bid.

As the soul-searching crosses the two-week mark, it’s clear that House Republicans are miles from a solution.

“I want it to be somebody who is not terribly polarized, who will understand that in divided government you’re not going to get everything you want,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), while acknowledging that he couldn’t pinpoint a single name who would fit the bill.

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