Not so long ago, Ohio Republican Representative Jim Jordan’s candidacy for speaker of the House looked dead in the water. Jordan, a founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, is not particularly popular even within his own party. An ardent anti-institutionalist, he is a bomb-thrower, not a legislator—not exactly typical speaker material. Less than two weeks ago, Jordan handily lost a vote to become his party’s nominee for speaker to the somewhat more institutionally minded Steve Scalise. Scalise then withdrew his name more or less immediately, realizing he would not have the requisite votes needed to be speaker. And so it was Jordan’s time to shine.
Jordan’s candidacy seemed doomed before the start of the weekend. On Friday, 55 Republicans voted against his candidacy, even though there wasn’t another alternative. Jordan promised a Tuesday floor vote—even if he did not have the votes needed to take the gavel—but the conventional wisdom was that there was no way he could unify his caucus (more or less—he can only lose a handful of votes to be elected speaker) in time.
With less than 24 hours to go before that floor vote, Jordan is on the verge of winning over the holdouts in his party. On Monday, Jordan was able to flip nearly all of the most important holdouts, including Representative Mike Rogers, who had suggested only a few days earlier that he was willing to hear from Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries about a possible deal. Jordan doesn’t yet have the votes he needs. But he’s extremely close.
Jordan would make Kevin McCarthy look like a master of compromise. There is every indication he would lead the House in a more radical, obstructionist way. He is, it should be noted, scandal-plagued: In 2018, a number of former Ohio State wrestlers accused Jordan, then an assistant coach, of knowing about sexual abuse that was happening within the program between 1986 and 1994, but doing nothing to stop it. Jordan has claimed he did not know of the abuse but has also claimed that the allegations against him are part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to derail his political career.
Nevertheless, that scandal has hardly derailed his career: Because Republicans have shown little interest in it, he has remained a star of right-wing cable news and is a favorite of Donald Trump’s. Jordan’s ascension to the speakership would be remarkable: both because he has no interest in actually governing and because it seemed impossible only a few days ago. And yet the most remarkable thing is that the House of Representatives might somehow become even less functional than it is now.