Leaving the House floor shortly after delivering the opening prayer on Friday morning, the House chaplain, Margaret G. Kibben, turned to the sergeant-at-arms flanking the entrance and whispered, “Godspeed.”
It was a barely audible plea that could not hold back yet another day of chaos and uncertainty, of sniping and of death threats, as House Republicans splinter in ways it increasingly seems that nothing short of divine intervention can repair.
By the end of the day, Republicans had toppled their latest candidate for speaker of the House, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, and in his place a free-for-all had sprouted up, with about a dozen members exploring a bid. And with Republicans having no plans to meet again until Monday, the House is guaranteed to go speakerless for at least 20 days, paralyzed as wars rage overseas and a U.S. government shutdown nears.
On the House floor, Republicans were at loggerheads from the opening moments.
Going into Friday, a bloc of frontline New York Republicans was seen as Mr. Jordan’s best shot at flipping a few votes in his third try for the speakership. Instead he lost ground, and three of them banded together to vote for Lee Zeldin, a former representative from Long Island. The three sat together on the House floor, and during the applause after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s nominating speech for Mr. Jordan, they remained stoic.
“For two weeks, I’ve been darn clear over what my policy priorities are,” Representative Nick LaLota, one of the three, said, adding that Mr. Jordan had not assuaged his concerns. Mr. LaLota, like other members who opposed Mr. Jordan, had faced death threats after Mr. Jordan and his allies waged a pressure campaign urging Republican voters across the country to flood the lawmakers with calls demanding they fall in line.
That those members chose the extremely unlikely Mr. Zeldin over Mr. Jordan reflected the deep personal and ideological fissures within the House G.O.P., and the bitterness lawmakers across parties were feeling all week about the dysfunction gripping the chamber.
“It’s so sad,” Representative Andy Kim, Democrat of New Jersey, said. “Everyone just feels so frustrated that the Republican majority is just incapable of governing this chamber.”
After more than two weeks without a speaker and a succession of tumultuous meetings behind closed doors, Republicans were also talking about each other in unusually blunt terms.
Representative Brian Mast of Florida summarized the mood of many allies of Mr. Jordan toward the holdouts against him in one word: “resentment.”
“A couple of our colleagues are taking personal vendettas and petty politics and not voting for Jim Jordan,” Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina added.
Ms. Mace’s comments illustrated another aspect of the deepening divisions among Republicans: They cannot agree on whom to blame for the chaos. For many more mainstream Republicans, the fault lies with Ms. Mace and the seven other Republicans who voted to oust Mr. McCarthy early this month.
In a last-ditch attempt to soothe Mr. Jordan’s holdouts, seven of those eight lawmakers offered themselves up as tribute on Friday afternoon by saying they would accept any form of punishment from the conference for their role in the dysfunction. (The eighth, Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, opposed Mr. Jordan’s speakership and did not sign on to the letter.)
“If we’re the reason that the conference can’t come together and elect our speaker designate, then we’re wiling to submit ourselves to whatever consequence,” Representative Bob Good of Virginia said, standing alongside Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida and Tim Burchett of Tennessee.
Their last-minute attempt at conciliation did little to win over holdouts.
Representative Carlos Gimenez of Florida, who had voted for Mr. McCarthy in all three rounds when Mr. Jordan was the nominee, said the proposal felt like a plot to install a speaker of their choosing. “That will make me never vote for Jim Jordan,” he said.
With no clear path forward for Mr. Jordan, Republicans filed into yet another closed-door meeting in the basement of the Capitol to figure out their next steps. They walked past throngs of Capitol visitors, many of whom paused to take photos of the sign that still bears Mr. McCarthy’s name above the speaker’s office, and chitter about his removal. Republicans ultimately voted in a secret ballot to end Mr. Jordan’s candidacy and start the process over on Monday.
Representative Anna Paulina Luna of Florida marched out of the hourlong meeting early, an indication of the right-wing rage that was to emerge. She had returned to Washington with her newborn to cast her votes in the speaker’s race.
“We have no speaker,” she said. “We have a war in the Middle East, and people care more about their own personal ethos than this country.”
Reporters flocked toward any member they could as they streamed into a narrow Capitol basement hallway to head back home. Some mainstream members were glad for the chance to move beyond Mr. Jordan’s bid, and to somehow find someone who could unify the conference; an elusive prospect, many said. Hard-liners were furious at what they saw as a betrayal of their candidate.
The split going into what by all indications will be another grueling, chaotic speaker’s race was evident: As Representative Jen Kiggans of Virginia, a Biden-district Republican who opposed Mr. Jordan, told reporters that she looked forward to members coalescing around a new candidate, Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a hard-right firebrand, raged just behind her.
“These holdouts,” Ms. Boebert yelled in Ms. Kiggans’s direction, “are responsible for Congress not working right now.”
Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.