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The House of Representatives has gone 2 weeks without a speaker

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Congress remains at a standstill. The House of Representatives has now gone two weeks without a speaker. House Republican Jim Jordan, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was nominated, but he failed to win the gavel in a first round of votes yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK MCHENRY: No person having received a majority of the whole number of votes cast by surname, a speaker has not been elected.

MARTÍNEZ: Jordan could only afford to lose a handful of Republican votes. Instead, 20 voted against him. Now he wants to try again today to see if he can flip enough votes - enough no votes - to occupy the speaker's chair. NPR's congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales joins us this morning. Claudia, quite a show...

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Right.

MARTÍNEZ: ...In the House yesterday. What happened?

GRISALES: Right, A. Good to be with you. He faced a deep deficit when it came to the conference in overcoming the votes that were against him. A final tally - internal tally - showed that he still had 40 Republicans who were going to vote against him last week, and he made a lot of progress over the weekend. Some of Jordan's supporters left a conference meeting earlier this week saying that as few as six might vote against him on the floor, but they were pretty off with the 20 who voted against Jordan. That even surprises detractors who I spoke with after the vote, like Florida Congressman Carlos Gimenez. He and others I talked to are still pretty dug in. And in the end, a lot of those noes were members of the House Appropriations and Armed Services committees, including the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Kay Granger, who all remember Jordan's fights against government funding.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. So House Republicans have seen this fight over and over again, and they seem like they're impossibly divided. So what can Jim Jordan do to somehow court the opposition?

GRISALES: Yeah. That's what is not clear at this stage. Many of these detractors are still mad that Kevin McCarthy was ousted by just eight members of the conference earlier this month, and they're also mad how House Majority Leader Steve Scalise was elected as a nominee last week behind closed doors. Jordan had come in second. But he was forced to step down when Jordan and his allies did not show enough support for him. I talked to Michigan Republican Bill Huizenga about this. He voted for Jordan, but he said there's a lot of factors here at play, including how this entire process is played out.

BILL HUIZENGA: There's hurt feelings and pinched fingers over Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise. And, you know, the - how we even got ourselves into this. And that's probably driving as much of it as anything.

GRISALES: And he says it's possible that Jordan could lose even more votes in a second round. I've heard, also, from a lot of members who are angry with the tactics Jordan and his allies have used to try to flip votes in his favor. They said it's had the opposite effect and backfired.

MARTÍNEZ: So I imagine that, you know, the House is paralyzed right now.

GRISALES: Right.

MARTÍNEZ: But they do have an acting speaker, Patrick McHenry. Could his powers be expanded on a temporary basis, maybe?

GRISALES: We are hearing about this a lot more from Republicans, including these detractors such as Carlos Gimenez and others who say that's the best bet now since House Republicans are struggling to get on the same page. We also heard from Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries last night that members of his party could help make this happen through a vote on the House floor with Republicans but many remain opposed to such a move in the conference unless the conference decides to move forward with such a move.

MARTÍNEZ: Any one at all that Republicans can agree on?

GRISALES: It really doesn't seem like it, but they really need to get there. They have under a month to address a government shutdown deadline, as well as concerns to start moving on aid for Israel.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales. Thanks a lot.

GRISALES: Thank you. 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.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.