Jordan Seeks House Speakership: Here’s What Happens Next After Scalise’s Withdrawal

A little-known Republican emerged on Friday to challenge Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio in the raucous party feud over selecting a new speaker, underscoring the divisions that have left the House leaderless and paralyzed for more than a week.

Representative Austin Scott of Georgia, a mainstream conservative and ally of the ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, said he would seek the nomination. He effectively was putting himself forward as a protest candidate against Mr. Jordan, a hard-right Republican who is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

The surprise move promised to prolong the infighting that has raged among Republicans since a hard-right faction of Mr. Jordan’s supporters forced out Mr. McCarthy last week and then refused to back the party’s chosen successor, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, for the post.

Mr. Jordan, the co-founder of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus and a favorite of former President Donald J. Trump’s, was pressing to smooth over Republican divisions and emerge as a consensus choice.

“I think I can unite the conference,” Mr. Jordan told reporters. “I think I can go tell the country what we’re doing and why it matters to them.”

Mr. Scott’s entry into the race was unexpected and came after no one else raised a hand on Friday to challenge Mr. Jordan. Mr. Scott, in his seventh term representing a largely rural and deeply conservative district in southern Georgia, has seethed publicly against the hard-right rebels who removed Mr. McCarthy. He pledged to return Congress to its normal operations.

“When I woke up this morning, I had no intention of doing this,” Mr. Scott told reporters. He added: “But I believe if we as Republicans are going to make the majority, we have to do the right things the right way. And we’re not doing that right now.”

A closed-door candidates forum was planned for 1 p.m.

House Republicans met on Friday morning to regroup after the abrupt withdrawal on Thursday of Mr. Scalise, their No. 2 leader, from consideration. They rejected several proposals to change their internal rules for selecting a candidate and were expected to turn next to choosing a new nominee.

Should Mr. Jordan, 59, succeed in winning his party’s nod and draw a majority on the House floor, he would be second in line to the presidency, capping a remarkable rise for a rabble-rousing Republican popular with the party’s far-right base. His combative style and distaste for compromise has tormented past G.O.P. speakers.

Mr. Scott, 53, has been a rank-and-file member of Congress since 2011. He is on the Intelligence Committee, a post generally given to members viewed as trustworthy enough to handle the nation’s secrets.

Mr. Scalise had surpassed Mr. Jordan during an internal party contest on Wednesday by just 14 votes. But rather than consolidating his narrow base of backers, Mr. Scalise almost immediately began hemorrhaging supporters, as lawmakers from several factions said they did not intend to fall into line behind him. He pulled out of the race about 30 hours later.

Mr. Jordan and his supporters hoped to avoid a similar fate and immediately began calling for Republicans to rally around him shortly after Mr. Scalise’s withdrawal.

But mainstream Republicans have concerns about Mr. Jordan. Several said they did not want to reward his supporters, who refused to honor Mr. Scalise’s nomination.

Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri called Mr. Jordan’s candidacy a “nonstarter.” Representative Don Bacon of Nebraska, who represents a district won by President Biden, said lawmakers were worried about caving to the whims of the hard-right members who had refused to back Mr. Scalise.

“The fact is: If you reward bad behavior, you’re going to get more of it,” Mr. Bacon said.

Representative Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, a supporter of Mr. Jordan’s, acknowledged that there were Republicans who would not support him “because they don’t want to reward that behavior.”

But he argued that Mr. Jordan should not be judged by the behavior of his most ardent backers and warned that winning a majority would be difficult for any Republican.

“I abundantly don’t think anybody has 217,” Mr. Armstrong said.

There was still talk of other options.

Some members, foreseeing a fight that could drag on for weeks, were also discussing how they might give Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina — the temporary speaker whose role is primarily to hold an election for a speaker — more power to carry out the chamber’s work until the conflict could be resolved.

Catie Edmondson, Annie Karni and Robert Jimison contributed reporting from Washington, and Richard Fausset from Atlanta.