Due to strong opposition from members of his own party, Republican Jim Jordan lost the first vote in his campaign to become Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
The right-wing Ohio lawmaker was heavily lobbied behind closed doors, but 20 Republicans declined to support him.
The Trump ally decided against holding a second vote until early on Wednesday.
Since an extraordinary vote to remove Kevin McCarthy from office 15 days ago, the lower house of Congress has been without a leader.
The House cannot approve emergency relief requests from the White House or enact any laws without a Speaker. This includes possible support for Israel in its conflict with Hamas.
Mr. Jordan received 200 votes on Tuesday’s first ballot, but he still needs 217 to take the Speaker’s gavel, which indicates the backing of the majority of members in the house.
Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic nominee from New York, received 212 votes, all of which came from members of the minority party.
Mr. Jordan pledged to “keep working” and said he was confident he would win in the end.
“We’re making progress. I feel good about it,” he told reporters. “We’re gonna keep going.”
In a chamber that his party controls by a margin of 221-212, Mr. Jordan can only afford to lose four Republican votes.
A second vote was supposed to happen on Tuesday, but the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee later announced that it would happen on Wednesday at 11:00 (15:00 GMT).
Republicans who declined to support Mr. Jordan either chose other candidates or voted for Kevin McCarthy, the previous Speaker who was removed on October 3.
In fact, three of them supported New York congressman Lee Zeldin, who left the House in January of this year.
Among other political grievances, a group of New York Republicans who voted against Mr. Jordan pointed to his opposition to assistance for 9/11 survivors.
Elise Stefanik, a fellow Republican from New York, meanwhile, referred to Mr. Jordan as “a patriot, an America First warrior who wins the toughest of fights.”
Mr. Jordan has a history of squabbling with fellow party members. The ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, which he founded, was previously called “legislative terrorists” by former Republican Speaker John Boehner.
Following the vote on Tuesday, Mr. Jordan spoke with a few of the Republicans who had opposed him.
But a few said they would not budge, and a few said the number of votes against Mr. Jordan would even rise.
Republican Ken Buck of Colorado claimed that the Ohio congressman had yet to accept former President Donald Trump’s defeat by Joe Biden in the 2020 race.
Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida who voted against Mr. Jordan, claimed he was under no “pressure at all” to switch his vote.
Any attempt to “intimidate” him, he continued, would put an end to any talks. “If that’s the case, that’s where you lose me,” he replied.
Another anti-Jordan holdout from Oregon, Lori Chavez-DeRemer proposed giving North Carolina Republican and acting Speaker Patrick McHenry more authority to keep the House running amid the standoff.
Republican from Florida who backs Mr. Jordan, Byron Donalds, told the BBC he was shocked by the number of voters who had cast ballots against him.
Republicans’ disarray is being exposed by Democrats, who are painting Mr. Jordan as an extreme.
He was called “a vocal election denier” by Pete Aguilar of California.
Two-time Speaker of the House and Democrat from California, Nancy Pelosi, told reporters that Mr. Jordan had obviously misjudged opposition to him.
She said that Republicans were “taking lessons on mathematics and how to count” to reporters.
Democratic minority leader Jeffries made the promise to collaborate with Republicans to identify a Speaker who would be acceptable to both parties during a press conference.
“There have been ongoing informal conversations that have been undertaken over the last few days,” he said.
“There’s a possibility those can accelerate now that Jim Jordan clearly does not have the votes for Speaker.”
The third-ranking Republican in the House and a candidate for Speaker, Tom Emmer of Minnesota, may step up if support for Mr. Jordan falls.
In order to take the gavel in January, the previous Speaker, Mr. McCarthy, had to win 15 voting rounds spread over four days.
Republican hardliners, including Mr. Jordan himself, fiercely opposed funding for the war in Ukraine, which played a part in the historic vote that resulted in Mr. McCarthy’s removal this month.
The vice president is first in line for the presidency, followed by the speakership.