Jim Jordan’s House Speaker Bid Challenged by Austin Scott

The Republican race for the US House speakership has become a bitter battle for the future of the GOP between Trumpist hardliners and the party’s establishment.

(Bloomberg) — The Republican race for the US House speakership has become a bitter battle for the future of the GOP between Trumpist hardliners and the party’s establishment. 

Conservative firebrand Jim Jordan, who has Donald Trump’s endorsement, is being challenged by Austin Scott, a relative unknown from rural Georgia who defied the former president when he voted to certify the results of the 2020 election. 

Scott had not previously expressed interest in the position and his sudden candidacy appears to be an attempt by traditionalist Republicans to thwart Jordan.

“I don’t necessarily want to be the speaker of the House, I want a House that functions correctly,” Scott told reporters shortly after announcing.

He was one of 45 Republicans to sign a letter earlier this month to other House Republicans who said they were “ashamed and embarrassed” by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s Oct. 3 ouster. He later called the eight dissidents who joined Democrats to topple McCarthy “grifters.” 

Read more: Still No House Speaker? What This Means for US: QuickTake

Scott, 53, opposed both of Trump’s impeachments and has expressed skepticism about Republican efforts to impeach President Joe Biden, telling a local news station that act has lost its purpose and “payback doesn’t work.”

Jordan, 59, is one of the lawmakers leading that impeachment inquiry. 

Scott focuses on national security issues as a member of the Armed Services Committee and the economic interests of his rural constituency as the second-ranking Republican on the Agriculture Committee.

Scott, who served as class president for the Tea Party wave of Republicans elected in 2010, has moderated in approach during his career.

The closed-door vote expected Friday afternoon is the latest twist in a dramatic 10-day effort to elect a new speaker that has left the House paralyzed and unable to conduct any business. 

Jordan, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, won 99 votes early this week in his first bid to win the Republican nomination for speaker. He was narrowly beat by House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who bowed out of the race Thursday night after failing to attract the 217 required to be elected speaker on the House floor. 

QuickTake: Still No House Speaker? What This Means for US

Jordan would have to win over Republican moderates to claim the gavel and that will be a struggle. 

Moderate Republican Don Bacon said he would have a difficult time supporting Jordan, who is allied with many of the eight GOP dissidents who ousted McCarthy from the speakership on Oct. 3. 

“I don’t want to reward bad behavior,” Bacon said.

A founder of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, Jordan made his name a decade ago as an ardent partisan who advocated deep spending cuts. His frequent appearances on Fox News have made him one of the most recognizable House members. 

In more recent years though, he has also played an insider role. For instance, he opposed the rebels who ousted McCarthy last week. And he has recently shown a willingness to compromise, offering support for legislation without deep spending cuts that would keep the government open through April.

Earlier: Scalise Ends House Speaker Bid, Deepening Republican Turmoil

He quickly endorsed Scalise after narrowly losing to him, and offered to officially nominate him on the floor.  

As Judiciary chairman, however, he initiated an impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, and formed a select committee to look into what he calls the weaponization of the Justice Department and FBI. That might put off Republicans who represent districts that Biden won in 2020.

It’s unclear whether either candidate could win 217 votes on the House floor to become speaker. 

“I think anyone will have trouble getting the 217 initially,” New York Republican Nicole Malliotakis said.

In a demonstration that Jordan’s bid has support outside the ultra-conservative wing, Malliotakis, a moderate within the House GOP, plans to give a speech nominating. So do two other lawmakers in the party’s ideological center, representatives Dusty Johnson of South Dakota and Kevin Hern of Oklahoma.


–With assistance from Billy House, Jonathan Tamari and Laura Litvan.

(Updates with Scott comment beginning with fourth paragraph)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.