WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite deepening opposition, Rep. Jim Jordan made an impassioned push to become House speaker ahead of a Friday vote, even as his Republican colleagues are explicitly warning the hard-edged ally of Donald Trump that no more threats or promises can win over their support.
The House is scheduled to convene for Jordan’s third try at the gavel, but 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.
“The American people are hungry for change,” Jordan said at the Capitol.
Drawing on his Ohio roots, the far-right Jordan, who is popular with the GOP’s 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.
“We need to get to work for the American people,” he said.
But after two failed votes, Jordan’s third attempt at the gavel is not expected to end any better. In fact, Friday is likely to produce an even worse tally for the fiery Judiciary Committee chairman — in large part because more centrist rank-and-file Republicans are revolting over the hardball tactics being used to win their votes. They have been bombarded with harassing phone calls and even reported death threats.
“I’m still running for speaker and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race,” said Jordan, a founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
But more than two weeks into the stalemate that has shuttered 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.
“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 them 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.
Jordan had backed the temporary speaker plan as a way to allow more time to shore up support in his own reach for the gavel.
“Asinine,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a leader of far-right House Freedom Caucus.
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’s path to become House speaker was almost certainly collapsing.
Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., said “it’s not going to happen.”
After a first failed vote Tuesday, Jordan lost rather than gained ground on a crucial second ballot Wednesday, opposed by 22 Republicans, two more than the day before.
Many view the Ohio congressman 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.”
With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, it appears there is no Republican candidate who can win a clear majority, 217 votes, to become speaker.
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.
When Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a chief architect of the ouster of the speaker two weeks ago, rose to speak, McCarthy told him it was not his turn.
“We’re shaking up Washington, D.C. We’re breaking the fever. And, you know what, it’s messy,” Gaetz said later, saying he had no regrets over the past weeks of havoc.
Elevating McHenry to an expanded speaker’s role was seen as 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, but 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.
“I’m going to abide by the Constitution and the rules of the House, and no one is going to put me in a different position,” McHenry said late Thursday, reiterating what he has told his colleagues.
“If there is some goal to subvert the House rules to give me powers without a formal vote, I will not accept it,” he said.
The North Carolina Republican, who is is well-liked by his colleagues and viewed as a highly competent legislator, has said his job is “to get the next speaker elected. That’s my focus.”
McCarthy himself had leaned into the plan, explaining that he tapped McHenry for the unusual role, created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to ensure continuity of government, because he “wanted somebody that could work with all sides. And McHenry is ideal for all that.”
To win over his 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.