Even with last-minute challenger, Jordan poised to move toward speaker’s gavel

Even with last-minute challenger, Jordan poised to move toward speaker’s gavel

Jim Jordan is poised to take a step toward the speaker’s gavel on Friday — even as he faces a last-minute challenger.

Republicans are meeting Friday afternoon to hear directly from the Ohio conservative and Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.), who threw his hat into the ring just before the close-door meeting and added a new dimension to the topsy-turvy speaker’s race.

While there are enough Republicans opposed to — or wary of — a Jordan speakership to block him from getting the 217 necessary votes on the floor, he is projecting confidence that he will clear the much easier simple majority threshold for becoming the conference’s pick for speaker on Friday.

“I think I can unite the conference. I think I can go tell the country what we’re doing and why it matters,” he told reporters, adding that he feels “confident” heading into the secret ballot vote.

But whether Jordan can ultimately capture the speaker’s gavel remains far more uncertain, with a coalition of vulnerable front-liners and frustrated allies of Scalise and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy predicting that the Ohio Republican falls short.

Scott’s entry is viewed more as a move designed to pull over Jordan critics and give the House GOP conference another choice. In a statement, the Georgia Republican said that he wanted to “lead a House that functions in the best interest of the American people.”

But one House Republican, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted that whoever votes for Austin on Friday “will be a slightly overstated proxy for the Never Jordan people.”

“Others are keeping their powder dry until Jordan realizes he has no path to 217,” the Republican added.

Underscoring that uneasiness, several Republicans left a Friday morning closed-door meeting making it clear that they wanted to see who else other than Jordan would run.

“When you reward bad behavior you get more of it. So I struggle with that,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), though he stopped short of saying he will vote against Jordan.

He added that “we need to have enough time for other folks to consider [running] and to come up with a game plan.” Bacon floated other alternatives including Reps. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Patrick McHenry(R-N.C.).

Rep. Young Kim (R-Calif.), another front-liner, added: “I’m not committed to anything yet.”

“The only thing that I’m committed to is the majority of the majority of our conference. The majority of the majority should be respected and we’ve got to move on,” she added.

That’s on top of the Republicans who have already vowed to oppose Jordan, including Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), John Rutherford (R-Fla.) and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) added that he’ll support whoever the conference backs but added of Jordan: “I just don’t see how he gets 217.”

And there are Republicans viewed as likely to make a bid if Jordan can’t capture the gavel.

Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), asked if he would jump in, indicated that he wants to give Jordan a shot first. And Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), a member of GOP leadership, appeared to leave that door open Friday, saying members had reached out to him but that he would “defer” to Jordan.

A person with direct knowledge told POLITICO that if Jordan doesn’t get the gavel and pulls out, Johnson is likely to run for the speakership.

Jordan has been holding meetings with holdouts ahead of Friday’s closed-door vote as they try to sway his critics.

Some Republicans say Jordan’s supporters are privately discussing a more hardball tactic — trying to amplify public pressure against Jordan holdouts, including threatening possible primary challenges if GOP members oppose him, according to two Republicans familiar with the matter. One of those Republicans, a senior GOP aide, told POLITICO that multiple members of the NRCC Patriots Program of front-liners have received “veiled threats” from Jordan allies.

When asked for comment, Jordan spokesperson Russell Dye gave a blanketed statement on such claims, calling them “totally untrue.”

Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) brushed off concerns about Jordan, who helped co-found the group.

“He’s the second most popular person in our party across the country. And he unifies this conference. People know him, people respect him across the whole conference. And what you’re hearing right now is a lot of bluster,” he added.

Main Street Chair Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), who is expected to nominate Jordan during the closed door forum, said that the Ohio Republican “is absolutely the right guy to unify the 118th Congress. And we need to nominate him. We need to get him 217 votes. We need to get on the floor and get a new speaker.”

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