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U.S. House stalled again after rejecting Jim Jordan as speaker a second time

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U.S. House stalled again after rejecting Jim Jordan as speaker a second time

Oct 18, 2023 | 1:27 pm ET
By Jennifer Shutt Ariana Figueroa
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U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) (R) talks to Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) as the House of Representatives prepares to hold a vote on a new Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol on October 18, 2023 in Washington, DC
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U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, talks to Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., as the House of Representatives prepares to hold a vote on a new speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 18, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Jordan’s bid to become speaker fell short a second time. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan in his second bid for U.S. House speaker on Wednesday failed to win enough support from his fellow Republicans, leaving the party deadlocked with no clear path to govern the chamber. 

Jordan’s 200 votes on a first ballot on Tuesday dropped Wednesday to 199, a signal from centrist Republicans that they are unlikely to be swayed by the pressure that some of his allies have been using to whip votes. 

Jordan remained confident following the second ballot, telling reporters he expects a third vote to be scheduled at some point. That vote won’t happen before noon on Thursday, according to a schedule update Republicans sent out late Wednesday afternoon. 

“Speaker McCarthy, he had a two-month runway from when he got the conference nomination and when we got to that first week of January,” Jordan said, referring to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. “So we’re right where he was and his numbers.”

Jordan plans to talk with the Republicans who voted against him and hopes to win those who flipped Wednesday back to his side. 

“We picked up three votes today,” he said. 

He noted that he also lost some votes, but “those people we lost … they voted for us before so we just gotta continue.”

The inability of GOP lawmakers to unify behind a candidate after 15 days without a speaker increased calls from centrist Republicans and Democrats for a consensus candidate, or to empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry of North Carolina to run the chamber. 

Ohio Republican Rep. David Joyce was expected to introduce a resolution Wednesday that would name McHenry as the elected speaker pro tempore. Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Kelly introduced a resolution earlier this week that would elect McHenry through Nov. 17 or until Republicans elect an actual speaker. 

At some point, Jordan said, the House could vote on giving McHenry more authority.

“There’s that resolution,” Jordan said. “I think at some point that question should be called, but obviously that’s up to Patrick McHenry.”

Electing McHenry would empower him to bring up resolutions and bills, and conduct several other duties that he has not attempted as the designated speaker pro tem amid debate about how much authority he has in that role. 

McHenry became the designated speaker pro tem after eight Republicans and Democrats voted more than two weeks ago to remove McCarthy as speaker after nine months’ tenure. McHenry got the gig because he was at the top of McCarthy’s list.

The role of designated speaker pro tem was established after 9/11 to ensure continuity of government in the event of a catastrophic attack. But the section of House rules that defines the role is somewhat vague, leading to debate among academics and experts about whether McHenry has significant authority absent an election.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday evening that McHenry is among the Republicans that Democrats could possibly support. 

“I have respect for Patrick McHenry. I think he is respected on our side of the aisle,” Jeffries said. “There are a whole host of other Republicans who are respected on our side of the aisle. Jim Jordan is not one of them.”

Democrats, Jeffries said, are looking for “a bipartisan path forward that is authentic, genuine and that we want to agree upon in good faith.” 

Nominating speeches

The dysfunction, which has dragged on for more than two weeks, has halted the chamber from taking up any bills and could slow down an aid package to Israel if the House doesn’t organize before the Senate approves the measure.  

Floor action on Wednesday began with nominating speeches for Jordan, a founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, and Jeffries, followed by a roll call vote where each lawmaker was called on in alphabetical order to name their choice.

A total of 22 Republicans didn’t vote for Jordan, with many opting to vote for Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise or McCarthy, though neither of those two were officially nominated. Michigan Rep. John James voted for former GOP Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan, who now serves as Macomb County public works commissioner. 

Several Republican lawmakers flipped to opposing Jordan, compared with Tuesday’s vote.

Republican Reps. Vern Buchanan of Florida, Drew Ferguson of Georgia, Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and Pete Stauber of Minnesota flipped from supporting Jordan on Tuesday to opposing him Wednesday. 

Republicans Doug LaMalfa of California and Victoria Spartz of Indiana switched to backing Jordan on Wednesday after voting against him Tuesday. ​​Florida Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who was absent on Tuesday to attend a funeral, voted for Jordan on Wednesday.

Republican Reps. Don Bacon of Nebraska, Ken Buck of Colorado, Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon, Anthony D’Esposito of New York, Mario Díaz-Balart of Florida, Jake Ellzey of Texas, Andrew Garbarino of New York, Carlos Giménez of Florida, Tony Gonzales of Texas, Kay Granger of Texas, James of Michigan, Kelly of Pennsylvania, Jen Kiggans of Virginia, Nick LaLota of New York, Mike Lawler of New York, John Rutherford of Florida, Mike Simpson of Idaho and Steve Womack of Arkansas, as well as all Democrats, voted against Jordan on Wednesday, the same as they did Tuesday.

An elected speaker pro tem?

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday how McHenry would approach the role if elected speaker pro tem. McHenry, who chairs the Financial Services Committee, has repeatedly indicated to reporters that he isn’t interested in leading the chamber on a more permanent basis. 

Republicans would have to decide if they want an elected McHenry acting as a regular speaker, including negotiating with the other three congressional leaders and President Joe Biden on must-pass legislation — or if they’d want him just running the floor with another Republican negotiating. 

That would include talks with the Democratic Senate and White House on an aid package for Israel and Ukraine, final versions of the dozen annual government funding bills, the annual defense policy bill and the farm bill. 

McHenry does have a recent track record of working out big, bipartisan deals. 

This spring, he and Louisiana Rep. Garret Graves negotiated the debt limit deal with top Biden administration officials. That legislation, approved with broad bipartisan support, also included total spending levels for the current fiscal year as well as fiscal 2025. 

Pressure to pick Jordan backfires

Florida Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart told reporters before the Wednesday vote that trying to threaten members opposed to Jordan wasn’t the right path to take. 

“As soon as you go into the strategy, of kind of trying to intimidate and threaten people. What happens is that, you know, there are people here who are honorable and they’re dignified and they will not be threatened and that just makes it worse,” Díaz-Balart said. 

There would likely be “a wide consensus” to ensure legislation can move across the House floor while Republicans continue to debate who should become their next speaker, he said. 

“We need to be able to move things forward,” Díaz-Balart said. “I think … that there is a consensus that we need to have a process where we can move legislation forward.”

But not all Republicans are sold on the idea of a bipartisan path forward.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, a Minnesota Republican, told reporters before the vote that working with Democrats to select a speaker was unacceptable. 

“A Democratic coalition government is a non-starter,” Emmer said. “We’re going to get Jim Jordan.”

Womack said following the vote the next move for Republicans is to go back to conference. He said there are three options. 

The first is a third ballot, but he expressed skepticism that Jordan would be successful if another vote is called. 

“I personally think that if we go to a third vote it’s … going to get a lot worse,” he said.  

The second option, Womack said, would be for Jordan to bow out and nominate McCarthy for speaker, and the third option is to temporarily empower McHenry. 

House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry of Pennsylvania said he wants Jordan to hold another ballot, arguing that a majority of Republicans voted for Jordan. 

“It’s all about stamina here,” Perry said.

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