WASHINGTON (AP) — Two weeks without a House speaker, Republicans will meet behind closed doors Monday evening to try to unite around their new nominee, far-right firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan, a Donald Trump ally who appears to be quickly shoring up support to win the gavel.
One by one Jordan, the hard-charging Judiciary Committee chairman, has been peeling off detractors who view the Ohio Republican as too extreme. A major pressure campaign from Trump allies including Fox News’ Sean Hannity has helped quickly build support. A floor vote that could turn into a showdown is set for Tuesday.
“I feel real good about the momentum we have,” Jordan said outside his office in Washington.
In a letter Monday to colleagues, Jordan took a cooperative tone vowing to “bring all Republicans together” if he becomes House speaker after the ouster of Kevin McCarthy.
“The country and our conference cannot afford us attacking each other right now,” Jordan wrote. “It is time we unite to get back to work on behalf of the American people.”
The political climb has been steep for Jordan, an outsider and founding member of the right-flank Freedom Caucus who is now just votes away from a seat central to U.S power. House Republicans have watched their majority control of the chamber descend into chaos since McCarthy’s sudden removal from the job Oct. 3. All House business has ground to a halt.
To seize the gavel, second in line to the presidency, Jordan will need almost the full majority of his colleagues behind him in a House floor vote, as Democrats are certain to back their own nominee, Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
Jordan fell more than 50 votes short during internal party voting Friday, and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the party’s first nominee to replace McCarthy, also failed to unify the Republicans.
But Jordan can rely on Trump’s backing as well as pressure on colleagues from an army of grass-roots activists who recognize him from cable news and fiery performances at committee hearings. Republicans say it will be hard for rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose him in a public floor vote.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who engineered McCarthy’s ouster by a handful of hardliners, publicly praised each lawmaker who has flipped to Jordan’s column — and berated those who have not.
“Thank you Rep. Ann Wagner!” Gaetz posted on social media, after the Missouri Republican announced her support.
Wagner announced her support saying she and Jordan had spoken Monday morning at length, “and he has allayed my concerns about keeping the government open with conservative funding, the need for strong border security, our need for consistent international support in times of war and unrest.”
Others also announced their support, including the House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers of Alabama. Picking up those two backers, Jordan said, was “really big.”
Still, it could take multiple rounds during House floor voting scheduled to start at noon on Tuesday as several Republicans still are refusing to back Jordan. With the House Republican majority narrowly held 221-212 he can only afford to lose a few votes to reach the 217 majority threshold, if there are no absences.
Democrats have decried the far-right shift calling Jordan the leader of the chaos wing of the GOP.
Jordan has been a top Trump ally particularly during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by the former president’s backers trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to President Joe Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.
Associated Press writer Kevin Freking contributed this report.