Hard-right Republican Jim Jordan won his party's nomination to lead the US House of Representatives on Friday, but the conservative congressman appeared to be well short of the support he would need to seize the speaker's gavel.
Successive closed-door votes left Mr Jordan with the backing of a majority of House Republicans, but still shy of the 217 votes he would need to win the job.
Republicans then said they would go home for the weekend, ensuring the House would remain without a leader until at least Monday.
Infighting among Republicans has left the House paralysed for close to two weeks, as members of Congress have deadlocked over a successor to Kevin McCarthy, who was forced out by a small group of Republicans on October 3.
In an initial vote, Mr Jordan won the endorsement over Austin Scott, a Georgia representative who has kept a relatively low profile in his 12 years in Congress.
He remains short of the votes he would need to become speaker, a powerful role second in line to the presidency after the vice president.
Republicans control the chamber by a narrow 221-212 margin, meaning they can afford to lose no more than four votes if Democrats vote against him, as they are expected to do.
Mr Jordan narrowly lost the nomination on Wednesday to Steve Scalise, the No 2 House Republican who was seen as the heir apparent to Mr McCarthy. But Mr Scalise abandoned his bid on Thursday after it became clear he could not consolidate Republicans behind him.
Some Republicans said their problems ran deeper than a simple lack of leadership.
“There's a lack of trust. There's a lack of transparency,” said Kat Cammack. “That's what we need to address before we can even really get to the speaker.”
Mr Jordan, who serves as House Judiciary Committee chairman, tormented Republican leaders for years as a vocal advocate for the party's right wing.
He has the endorsement of Mr McCarthy and former president Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
“I think I can unite the conference, I think I can tell the country what we’re doing and why it matters,” Mr Jordan told reporters before the vote.
Without a speaker, the House is at a deadlock as war expands in the Middle East, Russia continues to pound Ukraine and the government faces a November 17 partial shutdown deadline without additional funding from Congress.
Republicans have been hoping to avoid a repeat of the embarrassing spectacle that occurred in January, when hardline conservatives forced Mr McCarthy to endure 15 floor votes over four days before winning the gavel.
While Mr McCarthy was the first speaker in US history ousted by a vote of the chamber, the last two Republicans to hold the job – John Boehner and Paul Ryan – also left under pressure from their right flanks.