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Jim Jordan's bid fails, list of House speaker nominee contenders grows

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Who wants to be House speaker? Two people have tried and failed so far in the week since House Republicans ousted Kevin McCarthy. That is not stopping about 10 people so far from throwing their hat into the ring and expressing interest in running. Next week, House Republicans are hoping to narrow that list down, find their person, and maybe even take votes to the floor. That is, of course, a best-case scenario that has yet to materialize at any point so far for this warring caucus in this process. NPR's congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales is covering this and joins me now.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Scott. Good to be with you.

DETROW: So let's start with Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, who is the judiciary chairman. I guess he'll stay judiciary chairman, because he lost...

GRISALES: Right.

DETROW: ...A third round of votes on the House floor yesterday. What happened after that?

GRISALES: Right. The third try was not the charm. In each round, the list of Republicans voting against him only grew. That went to 25 noes yesterday. He could only lose a handful of votes in this narrowly controlled chamber, and he carries a lot of baggage filled with past controversies. And in the end, moderates and members of appropriations committees that remember his fights against spending and others, well, brought his bid down. And he and his allies also deployed these aggressive tactics that led to death threats against his detractors, and this only solidified and grew his opposition. Finally, it was this closed-door secret ballot after that third round on the floor that decided that he should end his speaker race.

DETROW: So House Republicans have kind of gone through the usual suspects already, right? The majority leader, Steve Scalise...

GRISALES: Right.

DETROW: ...Didn't have the support. Jordan's a high-profile committee chair. He tries and fails. Now it's kind of unclear who comes next. Take us through what's happening.

GRISALES: Right. This is a longer list this time, indeed, about 10, as you mentioned. I was outside the doors when this conference meeting had ended with the secret ballot and the decision for Jordan to step aside, and I heard one member come out. I saw him alert his staff. Right away, it was the first thing he said - let's launch our campaign materials to run for speaker. And so now candidates have until noon on Sunday to submit their names. Monday night, the conference will hold a forum with the contenders, and on Tuesday, they're going to hold another internal vote, this to narrow the list down of these new candidates and, they hope, maybe move to the floor with votes again for a new speaker.

DETROW: Who are some of the contenders here?

GRISALES: So they include Tom Emmer. This is a Republican whip - so a member of leadership. He has served in the House since 2015. He's already drawn an endorsement from the former speaker, who was ousted earlier this month, Kevin McCarthy. And another is Byron Donalds. This is a Florida congressman who's had a much shorter tenure in Congress, but he's very popular. He even got votes when McCarthy was struggling to get the gavel in January, and he's arguing that he's a perfect candidate. He would be the first African American speaker of the House.

And these two are a good example of the stark divide within the conference itself. Emmer voted to certify the 2020 elections, which nowadays can hurt a candidate, especially among the hardliners in this conference. Now, Donalds, for his part, he voted against certifying the 2020 election. He campaigned for Jordan's failed speakership, but he's already drawn in his own endorsement, including one from Mario Diaz-Balart. This is the dean of the Florida delegation, and he was one of those detractors who kept voting against Jordan.

DETROW: The challenge here is that just a handful of House Republicans opposing somebody tanks their candidacy. Is there anyone in the conference who can unite the party?

GRISALES: That's really unclear, and they have a lot of deadlines they're facing. To get this process started, to find a new speaker, it costs about a week, and they're facing a deadline November 17 for a government shutdown. And these brutal votes in recent days are a reminder of how hard it is for this Republican conference to get on the same page. So a successful speaker candidate is going to have to pull off something that appears nearly impossible right now, which is uniting some extreme wings of the party. And these series of failed Republican speakership bids in recent weeks is proof of that.

DETROW: You do not have to be a member of Congress to be speaker. Claudia, you know Congress pretty well. Are you interested?

GRISALES: I am not.

DETROW: OK. That's NPR's Claudia Grisales. Thank you so much.

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.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.