Arizona lawmakers fall in line, but House fails to elect new speaker

(Video by Renee Romo/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – Arizona lawmakers voted on party lines for a new House speaker Tuesday, but it was not enough to overcome a new group of rebellious Republicans in the House who blocked the election of Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan.

Jordan needed 217 votes to become speaker, but could only muster 200 from his party, as 20 Republicans voted for other candidates.

It was the first attempt to elect a speaker since eight Republicans – including Reps. Andy Biggs of Gilbert and Eli Crane of Oro Valley – joined all Democrats two weeks ago to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

It also comes as Congress is just one month away from another potential government shutdown and faces pressing demands to support Ukraine and Israel. But without a speaker, House business has ground to a halt.

“I talked about this being a bunch of toddlers,” Sean Noble, a political consultant for Compass Strategies, said of the House lawmakers. “We’ve… not seen this level of chaos in the house ever. At least not in my lifetime.”

Biggs, Crane and the other four Republican members from Arizona joined the majority of House GOP members who voted for Jordan, a hard-right conservative and founder of the Freedom Caucus.

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“The Swamp doesn’t want @Jim_Jordan to be Speaker of the House,” Crane tweeted Monday. “That tells you all you need to know. He threatens the status quo, which is why I’m supporting him.”

But Democrats pointed to Jordan’s hard-right history as the reason to vote against him.

“Jim Jordan’s agenda is simple: to criminalize abortion, slash Social Security and Medicare and weaken democracy,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, in a tweet Tuesday. “Only the @HouseGOP would designate someone who tried to overturn the 2020 election as the next Speaker. He’s too extreme and unfit to lead the House.”

For some, however, the vote was less about Jordan and more about getting the House back on track.

“The People’s House needs to get back to work. Immediately,” Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Tucson, tweeted early Tuesday. “Today as we vote for a speaker to return to legislative business, I will vote for @Jim_Jordan… There’s too much at stake to continue to be stalled. I came to D.C. to work– not sit around.”

As they did two weeks ago, Democrats voted as a bloc. The final vote was 200 for Jordan, 212 for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and 20 votes divided between various Republicans, including McCarthy and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., who won a preliminary vote to succeed McCarthy before being forced to withdraw in the face of opposition from the conservative wing of the party.

Jason Rose, an Arizona-based political consultant, said the continued Republican infighting is likely eroding people’s belief in the party’s ability to govern.

“How much longer is this going to go on, where people just say we can’t trust the republicans to govern, especially at a time like this when, you know, we’re confronting two wars and, you know, a lot of challenges at home,” Rose said.

Noble, who said he is a Republican, agreed that the delay in picking a new speaker is due to machination … having to be cut within the Republican conference itself, which makes them unfit to govern.”

“Republicans are going to lose the majority as a result of the chaos that they’ve created, because people are going to say, ‘We’ve got to have adults,” Noble said. “The people want leaders that are serious and they’re not getting it, so they could change the dynamic.”

Noble attributed the vote by Ciscomani, a moderate in a district that has been called a “toss-up” for the 2024 election, to the fact that he’s a “smart member.”

The House on Tuesday failed in its first attempt to elect a new speaker after ousting Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.., from the job two weeks ago. Without a speaker, business in the House has ground to a halt, with several important deadlines looming. (Photo by Lux Butler/Cronkite News)

“He comes into this job with a lot of experience, a lot of, you know, political acumen,” Noble said. “And at the end of the day… he wants to see a functional conference.”

Noble said the chances of a government shutdown “have gone up dramatically” since House conservatives started the process to remove McCarthy two weeks ago. That motion was in response to McCarthy’s efforts to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down – but that resolution expires on Nov. 17.

“I think they actually went up the moment that (Florida GOP Rep. Matt) Gaetz filed the motion to vacate, the chances of a shutdown went up significantly,” Noble said.

Rose said it is a concern, but he thinks there may still be time to head off a shutdown.

“Should America be concerned and should Arizona be concerned? Yes,” Rose said. “I don’t think we’re in critical territory yet, but we’re approaching it.”

The House recessed after Tuesday’s vote and was scheduled to try again on Wednesday.

Alexandria Cullen ah-le-xan-dree-ah cul-len (she/her/hers)
News Broadcast Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Alexandria Cullen expects to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication. Cullen has interned as a reporter at Ability360 and was news director and a reporter for CTV at Colorado State University.

Renee Romo(she/her/hers)
News Broadcast Reporter, Washington, D.C.

Renee Romo plans to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. Romo is a White House Correspondents’ Association Scholar, who has interned with Arizona Education News Service. Romo also writes for PolitiFact.