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House Republicans pick Jim Jordan for the speaker nomination

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

House Republicans have a new nominee for next speaker, Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Here is a highly condensed recap of the past week. Jordan initially lost the race for speaker against Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise. Then Scalise dropped out after realizing he couldn't get the votes needed to be elected by the full House of Representatives. And that is now Mr. Jordan's challenge, given his party's internal divisions. It's unclear if he can win over his colleagues who voted for somebody else. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is frozen and can't vote on anything without a speaker. NPR's congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us. Deirdre, thanks so much for being with us.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: So let me try and understand this. Jim Jordan won a majority of the votes to get the nomination. How much work does he have to do to get enough more votes to become speaker?

WALSH: He has a lot of work to do. I mean, he beat out Georgia Republican Austin Scott by about 40 votes in the internal Republican vote, but Scott only decided to run hours before yesterday's election. He didn't even really campaign. Jordan is a known quantity, and many expected he would have had a much larger vote. Even some of his supporters admitted they thought he would do better. He won 124 votes to Scott's 81. Jordan still doesn't have the broad support he needs of all the Republican factions. Remember, the House Republicans have a razor-thin majority. If all 221 Republicans show up on the House floor and vote, Jordan can only lose four. So House Republicans went home for the weekend. They're going to regroup on Monday. The House isn't back in session until Monday night, so it's unclear how soon the House is going to vote on a new speaker.

SIMON: And how will that work when it actually gets to the chamber? I mean, January, it took 15 rounds of voting to elect Kevin McCarthy as speaker, for however briefly he served.

WALSH: Right. Most House Republicans really want to avoid that. After they nominated Jordan, there was another vote on whether House Republicans were ready to vote for him on the floor. He got 155 votes on that ballot, but that's more than 60 short of the 217 he needs to get the gavel. House Democrats are all expected to vote against him. Some Jordan allies think he can win more support on the floor because former President Trump endorsed him, and they see that floor vote as a test of loyalty to Trump. Kentucky Republican Tom Massie is a supporter of Jordan's, says he's really popular with the Republican base and says there's going to be a lot of pressure on House Republicans to get in line when they do a roll-call vote.

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TOM MASSIE: And so when you have to stand up in front of God and country and say a name, your constituents are hoping you're going to say Jim Jordan.

SIMON: Deirdre, tell us more about Jim Jordan. We think of him as the guy who doesn't wear a jacket.

WALSH: Right. He still doesn't wear a jacket. He's a conservative firebrand. He's been in the House for about 15 years, and he really was a political outsider at the beginning of his career. He had a reputation as a thorn in the side of top House Republican leaders. He ran a fiscal group of conservatives called the Republican Study Committee. When that group wasn't conservative enough, he founded the House Freedom Caucus. He had many public battles with his former Ohio colleague, who was then speaker of the House at the time, John Boehner. And Boehner dubbed Jordan a legislative terrorist. He did become eventually close to House leadership under then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. That just shows how much the Republican Party has shifted in just a few years. McCarthy used to complain about Jordan, but yesterday he was campaigning for him to take his place. Jordan has been leading the impeachment inquiry against President Biden. He voted against the certification of the 2020 election results. You know, right after he won the nomination, Democrats held a press conference and warned if he's elected, he's a threat to democracy.

SIMON: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thanks so much.

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.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.