US Representative Jim Jordan
US Representative Jim Jordan (C), R-OH, speaks to the press as he leaves after a Republican party caucus meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on October 16, 2023 AFP

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 pass legislation to address a looming government shutdown or war in the Middle East.

Jordan, who is chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee and is backed by scandal-engulfed Donald Trump, was defeated by 20 Republicans who joined every Democrat to deny him the gavel.

Jordan, who has voiced confidence that he can get the majority required to secure the speakership, will get another opportunity in a second round of voting however, and his allies expect him to prevail eventually.

"I would encourage people not to be surprised if it takes a few rounds," fellow Republican Austin Scott told Fox News.

"I mean, every speaker over the last several years has had a few people from their party that didn't support them on the first round."

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

Jordan, 59, had initially looked like an outside bet but began showing significant momentum Monday, as a succession of his critics caved and announced their support, leaving him within reach of the gavel.

Strategists had suggested even before voting began that Jordan would likely come up short.

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 Jordan's backers.

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.

The House has been paralyzed since McCarthy's ouster earlier this month in part over his decision to deal with the Democrats on avoiding an earlier government funding deadline.

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.

A former wrestling champion and Ohio State University coach who became a key Trump supporter, Jordan helped found the House Freedom Caucus, a hard-line group within the Republican Party.

Dogged by allegations, which he denies, that he turned a blind eye to sexual abuse of student wrestlers by the team doctor at Ohio State, Jordan turned his image as a fighter into political capital.

Rarely appearing with a jacket in Congress, Jordan was frequently lionized by then-president Trump as a "warrior."

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 President Joe Biden.

"There seems to be a great unification. 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.

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

Former US president Donald Trump
Former US president Donald Trump, pictured in New York on October 17, 2023, is backing Jim Jordan to be House speaker AFP