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Republicans in the US Congress have gone home for the weekend without selecting a new Speaker of the House of Representatives, ensuring that the crisis of leadership and bitter party infighting consuming Washington drags into a third week.
The weekend break was announced after Republicans in the House selected hardline conservative Jim Jordan as their newest nominee for Speaker in a secret ballot on Friday afternoon.
But Jordan, the chair of the House judiciary committee and a prominent ally of former president Donald Trump, faces an uphill battle if he is to shore up enough support to win in a final vote on the floor of the House, where Republicans hold a wafer-thin majority over Democrats.
A vote is now not expected until next week, at the earliest, leaving the lower chamber unable to legislate and deepening the turmoil in Washington just as the US contends with an escalating crisis in the Middle East as a result of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Democrats have shown little willingness to back Jordan, a former head of the rightwing House Freedom Caucus, meaning he cannot afford to lose more than a handful of votes from his own benches.
Republicans split 124-81 for Jordan over Georgia congressman Austin Scott in the secret ballot on Friday. While Jordan was then endorsed by Scott, and his numbers notched up slightly in a second secret ballot, he was still opposed by dozens of members of his own party when the House went into recess.
Jordan’s selection marked the latest chapter in a dramatic two weeks in Washington that saw lawmakers narrowly avert a costly government shutdown before a small group of Republican hardliners staged a rebellion to unseat then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Earlier this week, Republicans selected Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana and the House majority leader, as their pick to succeed McCarthy. But Scalise abruptly dropped out of the race on Thursday evening after he failed to unite the party behind him.
McCarthy insisted on Friday that Jordan, who he publicly endorsed, would ultimately be elected Speaker.
“I don’t think it will take 15 rounds. I think we’ll be able to get the first one,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill, referencing his own torturous election as Speaker in January. McCarthy went through 15 rounds of votes on the House floor before he was able to shore up enough support from his own benches.
McCarthy said Jordan “just has to sit down and talk” to the holdouts, adding: “I think they will be there.”
The House has now been without a Speaker, and unable to govern, for 10 days.
The impasse threatens American leadership at home and abroad, given the House cannot legislate until a Speaker is selected. The lack of leadership stands in the way of a government funding deal ahead of a looming deadline next month, and jeopardises more US aid to Ukraine and Israel.