US lawmakers rejected hard-line conservative Jim Jordan’s bid for speaker of the House of Representatives in the first round of voting Tuesday, entrenching a stalemate that has paralyzed Washington for two weeks.

The lower chamber of Congress has been at a standstill since Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted by his own party on October 3 -- unable to address a looming government shutdown or war in the Middle East.

Jordan, who is backed by scandal-engulfed former president Donald Trump, was defeated by 20 Republicans who joined every Democrat to deny him the gavel.

The powerful Judiciary Committee chairman had voiced confidence that he would be able to win a majority, and announced after his defeat that he intended to return to the floor for a second try.

“We need to get a speaker as soon as possible,” he told reporters before a second round of voting was scheduled for 11:00 am (1500 GMT) on Wednesday.

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Jordan’s tally of 200 votes was three fewer than McCarthy achieved on his first of 15 tries to win the speakership in January, and 10 fewer than his total in the vote that ousted him.

But Scott Perry, chairman of the hard right House Freedom Caucus that Jordan helped launch, said he was “pretty confident” the Ohio congressman could secure the gavel.

“I feel like Jim Jordan is an NCAA champion wrestler who’s wrestled a lot of rounds,” Perry told reporters, in a nod to Jordan’s college sporting achievements.

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“I think he can go the distance.”

House Republicans have a razor-thin majority, meaning that Jordan will likely be able to lose four colleagues at most in each round of voting, with Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries poised to receive the full Democratic endorsement every time.

Some Republicans are wary of what they see as Jordan’s scorched earth approach to politics, while a handful have bristled over the intense pressure tactics of his backers.

- ‘Bad feelings’ -

Whoever gets the job will be under immediate pressure to lead support for Israel in its war with Hamas, renew US aid for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion and extend the US budget or face a damaging government shutdown next month.

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US President Joe Biden is expected ask Congress for a joint $100 billion package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the migration crisis at the US-Mexico border, a source familiar with the talks told AFP Tuesday.

But the House, which has been paralyzed since McCarthy’s ouster earlier this month, will not be able to approve new funding until a new speaker is in place.

Jordan, a fierce critic of House leadership for much of his career who has never authored a bill that got signed into law, is known more for his political counter-punching than his legislative record.

The former wrestling champion and Ohio State University coach has been dogged by allegations, which he denies, that he turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of student wrestlers by a team doctor.

With Republicans capturing their slim majority in the House in 2022, he snagged the powerful role of judiciary chairman and is leading an aggressive impeachment inquiry against Biden.

“I think Jim Jordan will be a great speaker,” Trump said outside a courthouse in New York as he attended his civil trial for fraud.

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“I think he’s going to have the votes soon, if not today over the next day or two.”

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