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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Jordan reverses himself and will push for a third speaker vote

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) walks while on the phone following the second failed election for House speaker on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Wednesday, October 18, 2023. Jordan, a hard-right Ohio Republican, failed again to gain enough support from his party to become speaker. The House remains leaderless after two weeks of Republican infighting.

By Luke Broadwater and Annie Karni

In a day of whiplash and uncertainty on Capitol Hill, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said Thursday he would push for another vote to become speaker even in the face of a growing bloc of Republican opposition.

Just hours after the hard-right Republican said he would hit pause on his candidacy and support elevating the interim speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, to temporarily lead the House, Jordan reversed course yet again and said he would move forward with his bid to win the post. It was not immediately clear when another vote could be scheduled.

His decision came after a furious backlash from rank-and-file Republicans, including many of his far-right supporters, who said empowering McHenry — a stand-in appointed to his post after the ouster of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy — would effectively cede control of the House floor to Democrats and set a bad precedent.

It was the latest abrupt turn in a Republican speaker drama that has played out for more than two weeks, underscoring the depth of the party’s divisions and disarray. Unable to unite behind a candidate to lead them, the GOP now can’t even agree on a temporary solution to allow the paralyzed House to function while they sort out their differences.

After falling short in two consecutive votes for speaker, Jordan, the hard-line co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus and a favorite of former President Donald Trump, had told members during a closed-door meeting Thursday morning that he did not plan to force a third vote right away. His candidacy has run headlong into opposition from a bloc of mainstream GOP holdouts, and he appeared to be losing more ground with each vote.

Instead, he said he would back a plan floated by some centrist Republicans and Democrats to explicitly empower McHenry — whose role is primarily to hold an election for a permanent one — to conduct legislative work through Jan. 3.

But during a contentious closed-door meeting of Republicans, his backers demanded he fight on.

“We made the pitch to members on the resolution as the way to lower the temperature and get back to work,” Jordan said. “We decided that wasn’t where we’re going to go. I’m still running for speaker. I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race.”

He said he wanted to speak with the 22 Republicans who opposed his nomination Wednesday before scheduling a third vote.

The idea was met with intense backlash during a raucous closed-door meeting of House Republicans with several members emerging and declaring the proposal dead on arrival. Some members waived pocket-size copies of the U.S. Constitution and suggested the plan violated the country’s founding principles.

“Just reading the room, I think it’s dead,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida.

Tempers at the meeting ran hot as members aired grievances and lamented the chaotic state of the chamber.

McHenry holds the position of speaker pro tempore under a House rule instituted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It requires that the speaker secretly prepare a list of lawmakers to temporarily assume the post in the event that it should suddenly become vacant. The ouster of McCarthy this month activated the rule for the first time, and McHenry, a close ally of his, was at the top of the list.

But because the situation is without precedent, the scope of an acting speaker’s powers is a matter of dispute. Some lawmakers in both parties believe they should eliminate any uncertainty by passing a resolution to explicitly empower McHenry to conduct legislative business for a set period of time. They have been discussing doing so through early January, although the timing was a point of debate.

Jordan’s waffling came after he fell well short of the majority he would have needed to be elected speaker Tuesday, and he was defeated again Wednesday when the number of Republicans refusing to back him grew.

Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio said Thursday he was continuing to talk with Republicans to see if any would flip to Jordan but was finding the divisions in the party too deep. Several members he talked to were still deeply embittered at how some of Jordan’s supporters forced out McCarthy and declined to support Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, when he was initially named the party’s choice to succeed McCarthy.

But the proposal to empower McHenry angered hard-right Republicans, who condemned the idea as a partnership with Democrats who have been calling for the move. McHenry negotiated a deal with the White House on the debt limit this year that was opposed by his party’s right wing.

“It’s a giant mistake to give the Democrats control of a Republican majority,” said Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana, who backs Jordan. He added: “What they’re doing right now is walking the Republicans off the plank. We don’t deserve the majority if we go along with a plan to give the Democrats control over the House of Representatives. It’s a giant betrayal to Republicans.”

The roadblock Jordan has encountered is a rare instance of the party’s more mainstream wing — normally those who seek compromise and conciliation — breaking with their Republican colleagues in defiance of the ultraconservative faction led by Jordan. It also underscored the seemingly intractable divisions among Republicans — as well as the near-impossible political math — that led to the ouster of McCarthy as speaker two weeks ago and that have thwarted the party’s attempts to choose a successor.

As the infighting continues, the House remains without an elected speaker with wars raging in the Middle East and Ukraine. And on the domestic front, Congress faces a mid-November deadline to pass a spending measure in order to avert a government shutdown.

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