By David Morgan, Moira Warburton and Makini Brice
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Outspoken conservative Jim Jordan will take a second shot at the top job in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday but also said the chamber should vote on another option to allow legislation to move forward if he falls short again.
Jordan said the House should hold a second vote to fill the vacant speaker’s chair on Wednesday, after he fell short of the needed 217 votes on Tuesday, when 20 fellow Republicans voted against him.
He also called for a vote on a scenario floated by Democrats and some Republicans that would give increased power to Representative Patrick McHenry, who has been temporarily filling the speaker’s chair for the 16 days the House has been without a leader.
That could allow Congress to respond to crises in the Middle East and Ukraine and fund the government past Nov. 17, when current funding is due to expire.
“We’ve got to decide today,” Jordan told reporters. “Both questions should be called. Let’s get an answer. We’ve been at this two weeks. The American people deserve to have their government functioning.”
One proposal submitted by Republican Representative Mike Kelly would name McHenry as speaker through Nov. 17 or until a permanent speaker is selected, which would remove uncertainty about his current ability to run the chamber. That temporary solution could also buy more time for Jordan to line up support for the job after that point.
Democrats, whose support would likely be crucial, have made clear they want Jordan out of the picture. “We want a bipartisan path forward. That does not involve Jim Jordan, who is a poster child for Republican extremism and a danger to our democracy,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said on Tuesday.
Republicans who control the chamber have been unable to unite behind a speaker candidate since a small faction of them ousted Kevin McCarthy on Oct. 3.
‘MORE AND MORE DIFFICULT’
Backers and critics alike predicted that opposition to Jordan could increase by five to 10 Republicans in Wednesday’s ballot.
“I think it gets more and more difficult for him every day,” said Republican Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, who opposes Jordan.
Two former Republican speakers, Newt Gingrich and John Boehner, have also advocated for empowering McHenry to lead the chamber temporarily.
Jordan, a close ally of former President Donald Trump, could be in trouble if more Republicans vote against him in a second ballot.
McCarthy sounded a note of optimism for Jordan hours before the second vote.
“If he can hold his votes and the number goes up, I think he can get there,” McCarthy told CNBC.
At least one Republican who voted against him on Tuesday, Representative Doug LaMalfa, said he would vote for Jordan on the second ballot.
New Republican alternatives aside from McHenry could also emerge if Jordan does not pick up support. Potential candidates include Representative Tom Emmer, currently the No. 3 House Republican.
Republicans control the House by a narrow 221-212 majority and can afford no more than four defections.
Democrats have signaled support for empowering McHenry and said they would not insist on sharing power.
Members of both parties have been discussing a possible agreement. But some Democrats privately said Republicans will have to publicly call for a bipartisan solution and they have yet to indicate a willingness to do so.
Unlike previous House leaders, who gained influence by raising money and building broad coalitions, Jordan has made his name as a vocal leader of the party’s hard right, tangling with Democrats and Republicans alike.
As a founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, the former wrestling coach helped drive Republican Boehner into retirement in 2015 and advocated for government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018.
A congressional investigation found that Jordan was a “significant player” in Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he has led investigations into Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration and is a driving force in an impeachment inquiry into Biden that Democrats say is baseless.
Several of his Republican opponents have senior positions on the House Appropriations Committee, including panel chair Kay Granger. Democrats pointed to that fact as a sign of Republican concern for the deep spending cuts that Jordan and other hardliners have advocated this year.
Jordan’s supporters say he would be an effective advocate for advancing conservative priorities in Washington, where Democrats control the White House and the Senate.