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Most Missouri Republicans back Jim Jordan’s speaker bid and predict impasse may end soon

U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) touts her accomplishments in Congress on Friday, July 22, 2022, during a meeting of the St. Charles County Pachyderm Club at Mattingly's Sports Bar & Grill in Lake St. Louis.
Brian Munoz
/
St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Ballwin) touts her accomplishments in Congress on Friday, July 22, 2022, during a meeting of the St. Charles County Pachyderm Club at Mattingly's Sports Bar & Grill in Lake St. Louis.

Congresswoman Ann Wagner was initially a holdout to the Ohio Republican’s speakership bid. But the Ballwin Republican said that she now backs him.

Missouri’s Republican House members appear ready to end the arduous drama over who should be the next speaker.

Four out of the six GOP lawmakers who represent Missouri told St. Louis Public Radio they would support Ohio U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan’s speakership bid. That comes after the initial choice of the caucus, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, bowed out last week.

Rep. Ann Wagner of Ballwin had told Politico that she would “absolutely not” support Jordan, citing his “disgraceful” and “ungracious” concession speech when he initially lost to Scalise. But she said in a statement that she would now support Jordan during the vote expected on Tuesday.

"Let me be clear, I am not, and will not, work with Democrats as our Republican Conference comes together to elect a conservative Speaker of the House,” Wagner said. “Too much is at stake to hand control of the House over to radical liberal Democrats, which is why we must elect a conservative as the next Speaker. Throughout my time in Congress, I have always been a team player and supported our Republican nominees out of conference.”

Wagner said she had talked with Jordan regarding “keeping the government open with conservative funding, the need for strong border security, our need for consistent international support in times of war and unrest, as well as the need for stronger protections against the scourge of human trafficking and child exploitation.”

Congressman Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, answered "hell yeah" when asked if he was supporting Jim Jordan's speakership bid. Jordan was an early endorser of Burlison's bid for the 7th District U.S. House seat.
Courtesy of Congressman Eric Burlison's office
Congressman Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, answered "hell yeah" when asked if he was supporting Jim Jordan's speakership bid. Jordan was an early endorser of Burlison's bid for the 7th District U.S. House seat.

U.S. Rep. Eric Burlison, who answered “hell yeah” when asked if he was voting for Jordan, said Wagner’s decision was significant. It came as others with concerns about Jordan’s potential speakership, such as Alabama Republican Congressman Mike Rogers, decided to stand down.

“It's looking like it's going to end tomorrow,” Burlison, R-Battlefield, said Monday. “Everybody’s going to come together, and it'll be a kumbaya moment.”

Rep. Mark Alford of Cass County also expects Jordan to get elected speaker on Tuesday. He initially voted for Jordan when he ran against Scalise and has said that the House should end the deadlock over who should succeed Kevin McCarthy to deal with budgetary and national security issues.

“We do have a myriad of crises in the world right now,” Alford said. “The world's on fire, and we've been a ship without a rudder for 13 days now. I think these things will go forward very rapidly.”

Rep. Jason Smith of Salem, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, also threw his support behind Jordan on Monday. He pointed out that Jordan has worked with him on an impeachment inquiry of Democratic President Joe Biden and used his position as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee to hold Democrats accountable on things like crime and immigration policy.

“House Republicans must act quickly to elect the next House speaker and end this gridlock that has brought our conservative agenda to a halt,” Smith said.

Jordan helped found the Freedom Caucus, which has often been a thorn in the side of House GOP leadership. Like Scalise, he voted against Biden's wins in Pennsylvania and Arizona — and has been a key ally of former President Donald Trump.

When asked if Jordan’s reputation as a conservative firebrand will make it difficult to maneuver through a divided government where Democrats control the Senate and the White House, Alford said: “You just asked the $100,000 question.”

Barring a rule change, Alford said Jordan will face the same type of peril that McCarthy had because it only takes one member of the House to bring up a motion to oust a speaker.

Congressman Mark Alford, R-Cass County, said he supports an effort to compensate people in the St. Louis area who became sick due to radioactive waste exposure.
Courtesy of Congressman Alford's office
Congressman Mark Alford, R-Cass County, said he supports an effort to compensate people in the St. Louis area who became sick due to radioactive waste exposure.

“[Florida U.S. Rep.] Matt Gaetz held it over his head for 8½ months and finally dropped that anvil on Speaker McCarthy's head and now he's gone,” said Alford, referring to how Gaetz helped engineer McCarthy’s downfall. “That same anvil will be hanging over the head of Jim Jordan. The question is will the Chaos Caucus, as some have grown to call them, use that same leverage to exert whatever they want out of the speaker of the House? Or do they have a good enough relationship?”

Burlison noted that Jordan endorsed him early in his bid for Congress when he ran in a crowded GOP primary in the Republican-leaning 7th District. He said Jordan is “the kind of person who's there to save America and not have a title.”

“You may not agree with everything he's doing. But you know he's doing it for a good reason,” Burlison said.

While Burlison said that Jordan may not achieve everything he wants in an era of divided government, he may be able to build the foundation for the House to change its course on things like governmental spending.

“Because the culture starts to change,” he said. “And people start seeing it.”

The House is slated to vote on a speaker on Tuesday afternoon.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Jason Rosenbaum