POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

House Republicans drop Jim Jordan as their nominee for speaker, falling back to square one

Oct 20, 2023, 8:30 AM | Updated: 12:12 pm

jim jordan...

Temporary House leader Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., talks with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, as Republicans try to elect Jordan in a second ballot to be the new House speaker, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans dropped Rep. Jim Jordan on Friday as their nominee for House speaker, making the decision during a closed-door session after the hard-edged ally of Donald Trump failed badly on a third ballot for the gavel.

The blocked-House impasse deepening, Republicans have no realistic or workable plan to unite the fractured GOP majority, elect a new speaker and return to the work of Congress that has been languishing since hard-liners ousted Kevin McCarthy at the start of the month.

Majority Leader Steve Scalise said they’re going “come back and start over” on Monday.

In all, Jordan lost 25 Republican colleagues in Friday’s vote, leaving him far from the majority needed, with next steps uncertain.

Ahead of the vote, Jordan showed no signs of stepping aside, insisting at a Capitol press conference: “The American people are hungry for change.”

Drawing on his Ohio roots, Jordan, who is popular with the GOP’s right-flank activist base of voters, positioned his long-shot campaign alongside the history of American innovators including the Wright brothers, urging his colleagues to elect him to the speakership.

McCarthy himself rose in the chamber to nominate Jordan, portraying him as a skilled legislator who reaches for compromise. That drew scoffs of laughter from the Democratic side of the aisle.

McCarthy said of Jordan, “He is straightforward, honest and reliable.”

Democrats nominated Leader Hakeem Jeffries, with Rep. Katherine Clark calling Jordan, who refused to certify the 2020 presidential election results, “a threat to democracy.”

“We need a speaker worthy of wielding the gavel,” she said.

But after two failed votes, Jordan’s third attempt at the gavel did not end any better — in large part because more centrist Republicans are revolting over the nominee and the hardball tactics being used to win their votes. They have been bombarded with harassing phone calls and even reported death threats.

In fact, the hard-charging Judiciary chairman lost rather than gained votes despite hours spent trying to win over holdouts, no improvement from the 20 and then 22 Republicans he lost in early rounds this week.

Friday’s vote was 194 for Jordan, his lowest tally yet, and 210 for Jeffries, with two absences on each side.

For more than two weeks the stalemate has shut down the U.S. House, leaving a seat of American democracy severely hobbled at a time of challenges at home and abroad. The House Republican majority appears to have no idea how to end the political turmoil and get back to work.

With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, any candidate can lose only a few detractors. It appears there is no Republican at present who can win a clear majority, 217 votes, to become speaker.

“He doesn’t have the votes to be speaker,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., said after a late Thursday meeting when Jordan sought to hear detractors out and shore up support.

The holdouts want “nothing” from Jordan, Gimenez said, adding that some of the lawmakers in the meeting simply called on Jordan to drop out of the race.

One extraordinary idea, to give the interim speaker pro tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry, more powers for the next several months to at least bring the House back into session and conduct crucial business, was swiftly rejected by Jordan’s own ultra-conservative allies.

A “betrayal,” said Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind.

Next steps were highly uncertain as angry, frustrated Republicans predict the House could essentially stay closed for the foreseeable future — perhaps until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.

“We’re trying to figure out if there’s a way we can get back with a Republican-only solution,” said veteran legislator Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

“That’s what normal majorities do. What this majority has done is prove it’s not a normal majority.”

What was clear was that Jordan was refusing to step aside, appearing determined to wait out his foes even as his path to become House speaker was all but collapsing.

Many view Jordan, a founding member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, as too extreme for a central seat of U.S. power, second in line to the presidency.

“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.”

Democratic Leader Jeffries reiterated that his party was “ready, willing and able” to partner with more traditional Republicans on a path to re-open the House —- particularly as Congress is being asked to consider President Joe Biden’s aid package for Israel, Ukraine and other needs.

A closed-door meeting Thursday to regroup grew heated at times with Republican factions blaming one another for sending their majority into chaos, lawmakers said.

Elevating McHenry to an expanded speaker’s role could be a possible off-ramp for the crisis, but it would not be as politically simple as it might seem.

Republicans are loath to partner with the Democrats in a bipartisan way on the arrangement, and it’s highly unlikely Republicans could agree to give McHenry more powers on their own, since their hard-liners don’t like it.

McHenry himself has brushed off attempts to take the job more permanently after he was appointed to the role after the unprecedented ouster of McCarthy more than two weeks ago.

To win over GOP colleagues, Jordan had relied on backing from Trump, the party’s front-runner in the 2024 election, and groups pressuring rank-and-file lawmakers for the vote. But they were not enough and in fact backfired on some.

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.

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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House Republicans drop Jim Jordan as their nominee for speaker, falling back to square one