Jim Jordan still in House speaker race as GOP scuttles plan to empower McHenry

Ex-wrestling coach hasn’t yet thrown in the towel on his bid to lead the lower chamber

Andrew Feinberg,Eric Garcia
Thursday 19 October 2023 16:10 EDT
Moment Jim Jordan loses second House speaker vote by larger margin than in first round

Ohio Representative Jim Jordan will ask his House Republican colleagues to vote for him on a third ballot for House Speaker despite losing two consecutive votes on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The right-wing firebrand refused to sign on to a plan to empower Rep Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who has served as Speaker Pro Tempore since a group of hardline conservatives forced the ouster of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Jordan had informed his GOP colleagues of his intention to stand down as members were entering a House Republican Conference meeting Thursday morning.

He was reported to have agreed to back a plan floated by fellow Ohioan Rep David Joyce to empower Mr McHenry, who had been placed in the temporary post because he was on a list submitted by Mr McCarthy, the former speaker, under a provision of the House rules added for continuity of government purposes after the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

But Mr Jordan later told reporters in the Capitol basement on Thursday that the plan to empower Mr McHenry “wasn’t where we’re going to go”. 

“I’m still running for speaker, and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race. I want to talk with my colleagues, particularly the 20 individuals who voted against me, so we can move forward and begin to work for the American people,” he said.

The now-aborded plan was gaining momentum because, over the two weeks since Mr McCarthy’s defenestration at the hands of GOP hardliners, Mr McHenry had insisted that his power as Speaker Pro Tempore is limited to presiding over the election of a successor to the ousted Californian.

The Tarheel State Republican, an 18-year veteran of the House who has chaired the Financial Services Committee since Republicans assumed control of the House in January, is well-liked on both sides of the aisle and not viewed as openly antagonistic to basic governing tasks.

By contrast, Mr Jordan’s bid for the speaker’s gavel has thus far been derailed by concerns among members of his own party that his history of legislative bomb-throwing and lack of accomplishments made him a poor fit for a role that is second in the presidential line of succession.

The proposal to enact a resolution empowering Mr McHenry has support from some moderate Democrats, as well as a few of the Republicans who’ve voted against Mr Jordan in the two votes held so far.

Rep Carlos Gimenez of Florida, an ally of Mr McCarthy who opposed Mr Jordan’s candidacy, told reporters he supports the measure to empower the North Carolinian through year’s end because it will let the House get back to work.

“We can’t get to a speaker. Everything is stopped. We need to get the House moving,” he said.

One Republican who has thus far backed Mr Jordan, Rep Dan Crenshaw of Texas, said he was “definitely open” to the proposal to formalise Mr McHenry’s powers, while adding the caveat that he hadn’t yet seen the actual plan.

Another Republican who previously voted for Mr Jordan, California Representative Darrell Issa, said Mr McHenry had conducted himself well during the post-McCarthy interregnum and deserved to remain in the post.

“Speaker McCarthy chose carefully and Patrick is shown himself to be very appropriate as a reserved and thoughtful interim leader. There’s no reason not to have him continue,” he said.

But Rep Jim Banks of Indiana, an ally of Mr Jordan, criticised said Mr McHenry doesn’t represent the whole of the House Republican conference.

“He doesn't represent what the majority of the body is looking for in a speaker,” he said.

He later told reporters that the plan represented “the biggest [f*** you] to Republican voters I’ve ever seen. 

“It’s a big mistake. Over half the Republicans in that room are against it and will go to the floor and vote against it. It’s going to take Democrats to make it happen. That’s a historic betrayal to our Republican voters,” he said.

Similarly, Rep Scott Perry, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus which Mr Jordan co-founded, said Mr Jordan should keep trying to win enough votes to become speaker.

“We shouldn’t be setting this precedent or this will be the way we elect speakers from now on,” Mr Perry told The Independent.

The move came after a number of Republicans, including Reps Mariannette Miller-Meeks of Iowa and Nick LaLota of New York reported receiving threats. Mr Jordan later denounced the threats on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“No American should accost another for their beliefs,” he said on Wednesday evening. “We condemn all threats against our colleagues and it is imperative that we come together. Stop. It’s abhorrent.”

Mr Jordan’s decision to prolong the drama over the vacant speaker’s office by persisting in his efforts to win the gavel comes as the House has less than a month to pass spending bills to keep the government open. In addition, many in the House hope to pass an aide package to Israel after it experienced a deadly attack from Hamas.

His refusal to step aside came during a contentious conference meeting which saw Mr McCarthy, the former speaker, scream at one of the members who’d engineered his ouster, Florida Rep Matt Gaetz.

Mr Gaetz told reporters after the meeting that the ex-speaker had “got his Irish up” but claimed that he had “not gotten too emotional” about the incident himself.

He also said the inability of half of Congress to function was not a bad thing because it is attacking the status quo.

“We’re shaking up Washington DC, we’re breaking the fever and you know what, it’s messy,” he said.

“The only reason people think there’s chaos in this town right now is because the special interests aren’t in control anymore. So I think we’re gonna have an upgrade at the position of Speaker of the House,” he added.

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