Jim Jordan, US Representative from Ohio, appeared to hit a block in his bid to become the next House speaker after failing to secure the 217 votes needed.
Although he won the Republican nomination last week, a group of 20 Republicans voted for someone other Mr Jordan in the first round of voting on Tuesday afternoon.
He won 200 votes. All 212 Democrats voted for House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries.
Failing to secure the gavel on the first round would not come as a surprise for Mr Jordan, whose allies probably knew it would take at least two rounds to win the speakership.
But having 20 defectors complicates his bid.
The House will reconvene early on Wednesday to continue negotiations and possible votes over the speakership.
Congress has been left paralysed since former House speaker Kevin McCarthy was removed two weeks ago. The House of Representatives is unable to pass any legislation or direct any funding.
The new speaker already would have faced the challenge of keeping the government open and deciding on future funding for Ukraine.
But the outbreak of conflict in the Middle East has made the timing even more critical.
The White House has warned it must pass a financial package for Israel after the country was attacked by Hamas on October 7.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, who led a delegation to Israel this past weekend, said the upper chamber would work quickly to pass an emergency supplemental package that would help Israel to defend itself.
“I know that the House is in disarray but we cannot wait for them – the needs are too great,” Mr Schumer said in a post on X.
The White House has floated the possibility of tying a funding package to Israel with aid for Ukraine.
Mr Jordan was non-committal when asked if he would support that idea.