Colorado Rep. Ken Buck joins opposition as Jim Jordan falls short on first Speaker vote

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Ken Buck
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, stops for a reporter as he heads to the chamber for votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022.

Updated 5:24p.m., Oct. 17, 2023

The disunity among House Republicans continued as Rep. Jim Jordan failed to get the Speaker’s gavel during the first roll call vote Tuesday. Twenty Republicans withheld their support, including Colorado Rep. Ken Buck. 

Buck cast his vote for GOP Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota.

Colorado’s other two Republicans, Reps. Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn both voted for Jordan, while all of Colorado’s Democratic House members voted for their leader, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, for the top job.

After the vote, Buck said there were a few reasons he did not back Jordan, including the future of military funding for Ukraine. Jordan was one of 117 Republicans who didn’t vote for additional Ukraine funding at the end of September. And Buck said “I haven’t gotten a commitment that it will come to the floor” if Jordan becomes Speaker.

Buck also reiterated his concern about Jordan’s views on the 2020 election and his involvement in the Trump campaign’s effort to hold onto the presidency.

"I’m concerned about the inability to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election and the activities surrounding January 6th," Buck continued.

Jordan supporters have been pushing the need to unify after two weeks where the House floor has been frozen. "Just remember that there is far more that unites the Republican Party than divides us," Boebert posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter, before the vote.

Buck believes there are a lot of people, including Emmer, who would be good speakers. “We’ll just have to see if we can develop a consensus in conference.”

But holding additional rounds of voting at this point, which Jordan is expected to do, is not the way.

“Having another vote when you lose by 20 and you’ve got people who said they’re only going to vote for you on the first ballot and not vote for you on the second ballot is just not a way to bring the conference together,” he said. Buck does not plan on voting for Jordan at the next vote either.

The failed vote suggests the House could be headed toward the same kind of impasse it experienced in January, when it took 15 rounds of voting for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy to lock down the top job. It also highlights the disunity of the House GOP conference, which has been on stark display over the last two weeks.

Two weeks ago, eight Republicans, including Buck,  joined all Democrats to oust McCarthy. And the conference’s first choice for the job, Rep. Steve Scalise, rapidly stepped down after numerous Republicans, Boebert among them, said they would not support the majority pick of the conference.

Jordan’s backers, however, were quick to pressure his critics to support their candidate when he got the majority of the conference behind him, especially after the Hamas attack on Israel.

Coming out of the closed door nomination meeting Friday, Rep. Ken Buck told reporters he voted for Georgia Rep. Austin Scott, who launched a last minute bid against Jordan. Buck said he had some “big concerns” about Jordan for Speaker.

Jordan’s potential ascension to the top job in the House, and second in line to the presidency, would cement the hard-right faction’s power over more traditional Republicans within the House caucus.

An ardent supporter of former President Donald Trump, the 9-term Ohio lawmaker voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and refused to cooperate with the January 6th Committee, even after being served with a congressional subpoena.

Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner dubbed Jordan a “legislative terrorist,” more interested in derailing legislation than in governing. 

“I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart,” Boehner told CBS News in 2021.

When it comes to passing policies, Jordan has had scant legislative success during his almost 20 years in Congress, and done little to build bipartisan ties. He consistently ranks low on congressional rankings for effectiveness and bipartisanship. He’s best known for leading GOP congressional investigations, from looking into Benghazi to the more recent Weaponization of the Federal Government Committee. 

McCarthy, unlike Boehner, worked to bring Jordan into the leadership fold. First making him the ranking member of the Oversight Committee in the last congress and then promoting him to Judiciary Chair in this one.

First elected to Congress in 2006, Jordan was a former wrestling coach at Ohio State. He has continuously denied knowledge of sexual abuse committed by the team's doctor, while numerous former students have said he turned a blind eye to it. A university investigation found no hard evidence that Jordan knew. He also served in the Ohio House of Representatives and then the Ohio Senate before his career in Congress

Going into voting, Democrats were sour on the idea of being able to work with Jordan.

Rep. Joe Neguse has served with Jordan on the Judiciary Committee and said from that perch he had a front row seat to how Jordan has “undermined precedents of the House and the norms that have governed this institution.”

“This is someone who has made it his focus in Washington to not work with the other side,” Neguse said. “His policy agenda is rooted in extremists and one that is deeply distorted from the values and the priorities of the American people.”

The dean of the Colorado delegation, Rep. Diana Degette, said Jordan would be “the most radical speaker in the history of the House.”

She also didn’t expect the gridlock in the House to dissipate. “I can’t imagine that would change under Jim Jordan, who, if it’s possible, is even more farther to the right than Kevin McCarthy.”

But no Democrat expressed any regret over their votes that helped oust McCarthy. 

Rep. Jason Crow said it’s up to Republicans to elect their leader. He added that the person they choose, “says a lot about their politics and what their goals are.”

Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern, who is ranking member of the powerful Rules Committee, said there’s little difference between Jordan, McCarthy and Scalise and their policies. “Different waiter, same menu.”