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The House Speaker's Race Hits an Impasse as Defeated GOP Rep. Jim Jordan Wants to Try Again
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By Associated Press
Published 6 months ago on
October 19, 2023

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WASHINGTON — Refusing to drop out, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan has brought the House speaker’s race to a stalemate — the hard-fighting ally of Donald Trump has been unable to win the gavel but he and his far-right allies won’t step aside for a more viable GOP nominee.

The House is tentatively set to convene sometime Thursday afternoon for Jordan to try again.

But there’s 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. The impasse has left some Republican lawmakers settling in for a protracted stretch without a House speaker.

“I think clearly Nov. 17 is a real date,” said Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., who leads a large conservative caucus, referring to the next deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.

Next steps were highly uncertain as angry, frustrated Republicans looked at other options. A bipartisan group of lawmakers floated an extraordinary plan — to give the interim speaker pro tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., more power to reopen the immobilized House and temporarily conduct routine business. But that seems doubtful, for now.

What was clear was that Jordan’s path to become House speaker was almost certainly lost.

On 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. One lawmaker said they had received death threats.

“We’ll keep talking to members, keep working on it,” Jordan, a founding member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, said after the vote.

The House came to another abrupt standstill, 16 days now since the sudden ouster of Kevin McCarthy without a speaker — a position of power second in line to the presidency.

As Republicans upset and exhausted by the infighting retreated for private conversations, hundreds of demonstrators amassed outside the Capitol over the Israel-Hamas war, a stark reminder of the concern over having the House adrift as political challenges intensify at home and abroad.

“The way out is that Jim Jordan has got to pull his name,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who voted twice against him. “He’s going to have to call it quits.”

After Wednesday’s vote, McCarthy and other party leaders appeared to tentatively rally around Jordan, giving the combative Judiciary Committee chairman the time he was demanding, though it was doubtful he could shore up votes.

With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, Jordan must pick up most of his GOP foes to win. Wednesday’s tally, with 199 Republicans voting for Jordan and 212 for Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, left no candidate with a clear majority.

The holdouts added to a surprisingly large and politically diverse group of 20 Republicans who had rejected Jordan’s nomination the day before.

Refusal to Concede Further Embitters Some Republicans

Jordan’s refusal to concede only further embittered some of the Republicans, who were upset that the party’s first choice, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, was essentially forced to drop his own bid 24 hours after a failed vote last week in large part because Jordan’s backers refused to give their support.

Bipartisan groups of lawmakers have been floating ways to operate the House by giving greater power to McHenry or another temporary speaker. The House had never ousted its speaker before McCarthy, and McHenry could tap the temporary powers that were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks to ensure continuity of government.

The novel concept of boosting the interim speaker’s role was gaining favor with a pair of high-profile Republicans: former GOP speakers Newt Gingrich and John Boehner.

The two men have deep experience with the subject. Both were chased to early retirement.

“All options are on the table to end the Republican civil war,” Jeffries said Wednesday.

But McHenry appeared to brush off the idea of taking further powers for himself, saying Jordan “has the support of the conference to keep going, so that’s what we’re gonna do.”

McHenry added that he finds himself in an unprecedented position and has constructed his role “as narrowly as the rules say I should, and we can’t transact business until we elect a speaker.”

To win over his GOP 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.

“One thing I cannot stomach or support is a bully,” said a statement from Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, who voted against Jordan on the second ballot and said she received “credible death threats and a barrage of threatening calls.”

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.

Instead, the holdouts cast their ballots for McCarthy, Scalise and others, with one vote even going to the retired Boehner.

Jordan has been a top Trump ally, particularly during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by the former president’s backers who were trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.

The political climb has been steep for Jordan, who is known more as a chaos agent than a skilled legislator, raising questions about how he would lead. Congress faces daunting challenges, risking a federal shutdown at home if it fails to fund the government and fielding Biden’s requests for aid to help Ukraine and Israel in the wars abroad.

First elected in 2006, Jordan has few bills to his name from his time in office. He also faces questions about his past. Some years ago, Jordan denied allegations from former wrestlers during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University who accused him of knowing about claims they were inappropriately groped by an Ohio State doctor. Jordan has said he was never aware of any abuse.

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