By Moira Warburton, David Morgan and Katharine Jackson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Representative Jim Jordan won the Republican nomination to lead the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday, but the hardline conservative appeared to be well short of the support he would need to seize the speaker’s gavel.
Successive closed-door votes left Jordan with the backing of a majority of House Republicans, but still shy of the 217 votes he would need to win the job.
Republicans then said they would go home for the weekend, ensuring the House would remain without a leader until at least Monday.
Republican infighting has left the House paralyzed for close to two weeks, as lawmakers have deadlocked over a successor to Kevin McCarthy, who was forced out by a small group of Republicans on Oct. 3.
In an initial vote, Jordan won the endorsement over Austin Scott, a Georgia lawmaker who has kept a relatively low profile in his 12 years in Congress. The vote was 124-81, according to a Republican aide who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Jordan did not pick up much more support in a second round of voting, which he won 152-55, according to lawmakers, meaning that about one in four House Republicans cast a ballot purely against Jordan.
That left him short of the votes he would need to become speaker, a powerful role second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
Republicans control the chamber by a narrow 221-212 margin, meaning they can afford to lose no more than four votes if Democrats vote against him, as they are expected to do.
Jordan narrowly lost the nomination on Wednesday to Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican who was seen as the heir apparent to McCarthy. But Scalise abandoned his bid on Thursday after it became clear he could not consolidate Republicans behind him.
Some Republicans said their problems ran deeper than a simple lack of leadership.
“Republicans have forgotten how to work as a team,” Representative Dusty Johnson told reporters. “I think it is a terribly corrosive trend.”
Jordan, 59, would be a departure from past Republican leaders like McCarthy, who have focused on raising money and balancing competing ideological groups.
He has been a vocal presence on the party’s right wing and tormentor of party leaders since he was first elected in 2006. A close ally of Donald Trump, he helped amplify the former president’s false claims of fraud in the 2020 election and secured Trump’s endorsement last week.
As chair of the Judiciary Committee, Jordan is helping to lead an impeachment investigation into Democratic President Joe Biden that Democrats characterize as baseless.
“I think I can unite the conference, I think I can tell the country what we’re doing and why it matters,” Jordan told reporters before the vote.
Democrats who have suggested working with Republicans on a consensus speaker pick said Jordan was not what they had in mind.
“House Republicans have selected as their nominee to be the speaker of the people’s House the chairman of the chaos caucus, a defender in a dangerous way of dysfunction and an extremist extraordinaire,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said.
Without a speaker, the House is at a deadlock as war expands in the Middle East, Russia continues to pound Ukraine and the government faces a Nov. 17 partial shutdown deadline without additional funding from Congress.
Republicans have been hoping to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing spectacle that occurred in January, when hardline conservatives forced McCarthy to endure 15 floor votes over four days before winning the gavel.
Jordan backers said his confrontational style could help in negotiating with Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“We need someone who is tough, who’s smart and can negotiate in that room. I think Jim Jordan can do it,” said Representative Nicole Malliotakis.
But the second vote made clear that many Republicans were still reluctant to line up behind him.
“You’ve got a very, very thin margin and he’s going to have to basically get all of those no’s – including some people who swore up and down they never would support him,” said Representative Kat Cammack.
While McCarthy was the first speaker in U.S. history ousted by a vote of the chamber, the last two Republicans to hold the job – John Boehner and Paul Ryan – also left under pressure from their right flanks.
(Reporting by Moira Warburton, David Morgan and Katharine Jackson; Writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)