Jordan Still Running for Speaker; Plan for Temporary One Falls Flat
Refusing to give up, Representative Jim Jordan told Republican colleagues on Thursday that he was still running to be speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — leaving Republicans few viable options after his backers resisted a plan to expand the temporary speaker’s powers to reopen the House.
The combative Ohio congressman delivered the message at a fiery closed-door meeting at the Capitol as the Republican majority considered an extraordinary plan to give the speaker pro tempore more powers for the next several months to bring the House back into session and conduct crucial business, according to Republicans familiar with the private meeting who insisted on anonymity to discuss it.
But neither option seemed immediately workable. Republican moderates who have twice rejected Jordan are unwilling to support him now, especially after some have reported harassing pressures and even death threats from his supporters. At the same time, Jordan’s hard-right allies are refusing to allow a temporary speaker to gain more power.
The prolonged stalemate risks keeping the House intractably shut down for the foreseeable future after the unprecedented ouster of Representative Kevin McCarthy of California as speaker.
“I’m still running for speaker, and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race,” said Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and founder of the House Freedom Caucus.
Factions blame one another
Thursday’s meeting grew heated at times with Republican factions blaming one another for sending their majority into chaos, lawmakers said.
When Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida — the chief architect of the ouster of the speaker two weeks ago — rose to speak, McCarthy told him it was not his turn.
“We’re shaking up Washington, D.C. We’re breaking the fever. And, you know what, it’s messy,” Gaetz said later.
The House convened briefly at midday Thursday, but no action was taken. The schedule ahead is uncertain.
‘It’s not a normal majority’
There is a sinking realization that the House could remain endlessly stuck, out of service, and without a leader for the foreseeable future as the Republican majority spirals deeper into dysfunction.
“We’re trying to figure out if there’s a way we can get back with a Republican-only solution,” said veteran legislator Tom Cole, a representative from Oklahoma. “That’s what normal majorities do. What this majority has done is prove it’s not a normal majority.”
Elevating Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry to an expanded speaker’s role would not be as politically simple as it might seem. The hard-right Republican lawmakers — including some who ousted McCarthy — don’t like the idea.
While Democrats have suggested the arrangement, Republicans are loath to partner with the Democrats in a bipartisan way. And it’s highly unlikely Republicans could agree to give McHenry more power on their own, even though they have majority control of the House.
“It’s a bad precedent and I don’t support it,” said Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus.
McHenry himself has brushed off attempts to take the job more permanently after he was appointed to the role after the ouster of McCarthy.
“I did not ask for additional powers,” said McHenry, a Republican who is well-liked by colleagues and viewed as a highly competent legislator. “My duty is to get the next speaker elected. That’s my focus.”
But McCarthy himself said he tapped McHenry for the role — created in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to ensure continuity of government — because he “wanted somebody that could work with all sides. And McHenry is ideal for all that.”
The next steps are highly uncertain as angry, frustrated Republicans predict the House could stay essentially shuttered, as it has been almost all month, until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.
“I think clearly November 17 is a real date,” said Oklahoma Representative Kevin Hern, who leads a large conservative caucus, about the next deadline.
Earlier Wednesday, Jordan, failed in a crucial second ballot, opposed by 22 Republicans, two more than he lost in first-round voting the day before.
Many view the Ohio congressman as too extreme for a central seat of U.S. power and resented the harassing hardball tactics from Jordan’s allies for their votes. Several lawmakers said they had received death threats.
“One thing I cannot stomach or support is a bully,” said a statement from Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who voted against Jordan on the second ballot and said she received “credible death threats and a barrage of threatening calls.”
To win over his Republican colleagues, Jordan had relied on backing from Trump, the party’s front-runner in the 2024 election to challenge President Joe Biden, and groups pressuring rank-and-file lawmakers for the vote. But they were not enough and in fact backfired on some.
Flexing their independence, the holdouts are a mix of pragmatists — ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing, to newer lawmakers from districts where voters prefer Biden to Trump. Jordan’s refusal to concede only further emboldened some of the Republicans.
“The way out is that Jim Jordan has got to pull his name,” said Nebraska Representative Don Bacon, who voted twice against Jordan. “He’s going to have to call it quits.”
Representative John Rutherford of Florida said “it’s not going to happen.”
With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, it appears no Republican candidate can win a clear majority, 217 votes, if there are no absences.