Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) failed again Wednesday to win enough Republican support to become the next speaker of the House — prompting increasing calls from both parties to expand the powers of the interim speaker to overcome the GOP’s intraparty morass and move on with legislative matters.
The search for the next House speaker
End of carousel
Jordan, who received 200 votes in the first ballot Tuesday, had said he would continue trying to win over the 20 colleagues who had opposed him. In the only round of balloting on Wednesday, however, he lost support overall, ending up with 199 votes. He flipped only two Republican votes and lost four of his colleagues, most of whom are pragmatic lawmakers focused on governing and allies of Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who initially defeated Jordan for the party’s nomination last week.
Afterward, a spokesman for Jordan vowed the Ohio Republican would “keep going,” even as it was unclear what his path to the necessary votes would be. Later, Jordan said lawmakers would reconvene Thursday instead of continuing to vote Wednesday night.
The unprecedented impasse has now left the House without a speaker for more than two weeks, since Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was ousted Oct. 3 in a rebellion by the GOP’s hard-right lawmakers. Those same lawmakers had touted Jordan and his ultraconservative credentials as a plus: Jordan was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus and has been a staunch ally of Donald Trump, supporting him in his effort to overturn the 2020 election.
But Jordan has so far been unable to overcome the House Republican Conference’s deep divisions, which have been laid bare in several high-profile fights this year over the nation’s debt limit and the appropriations process.
Republicans have privately admitted they will start to flip their support if Jordan can’t clinch the speakership, and more GOP lawmakers are expected to oppose Jordan on Thursday. Some Republicans have worked among themselves to ensure that the number of votes against Jordan grows in each round of voting, according to two lawmakers familiar with the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations, recognizing that Jordan will not back down until it is clear a majority of Republicans do not want him to lead their conference.
Boding ill for Jordan, the four Republicans who flipped against him Wednesday do not fall into the categories that many of the previous holdouts do. None of them are on the House Appropriations or Armed Services committees, two panels that have been hamstrung by hard-right lawmakers’ demands throughout the year. Two of the additional holdouts belong to the pragmatic Republican Governance Group, which is working with Democrats on a proposal that could ensure the House can begin governing again by empowering a temporary speaker.
Two of those lawmakers, Reps. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), had both indicated previously that they would support Jordan for at least one round of voting before flipping. On Wednesday, Miller-Meeks voted for Rep. Kay Granger, prompting laughter from the Texas Republican who chairs the Appropriations Committee. Buchanan cast a vote for Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a Freedom Caucus member who also was not a serious contender. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) voted for the chairman of one of his panels, Natural Resources Committee Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.). Even former House speaker John A. Boehner, who resigned in 2015, received a vote Wednesday.
Another lawmaker who flipped against Jordan on Wednesday was Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.), a longtime chief deputy whip to Scalise, underscoring how much further relations between the Jordan and Scalise camps had soured after both sides spent Tuesday blaming each other for Jordan’s poor showing on the first ballot.
As it has been for days, frustration was palpable in the GOP conference Wednesday afternoon. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) said the four members who changed their minds and flipped against Jordan were acting “very childish.”
“Like, this is serious. This is the United States Congress,” said Malliotakis, who has supported each Republican speaker-designee. “We’re trying to elect a speaker and you’re just, like, throwing out, like, random names of people who are not running or are not even members of the House. … [Republicans] have to have a serious conversation about moving the ball forward.”
But those who opposed Jordan dug in their heels, as the aggressive pressure campaign that Jordan and his allies had mounted over the weekend appeared to backfire even more. Many Republicans have realized the intimidation tactics deployed by Jordan’s allies and the GOP base during his campaign for the speakership could foreshadow how Jordan would operate as the top Republican governing the House, pressuring colleagues to bend to his will.
“No American should accost another for their beliefs,” Jordan posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, after Miller-Meeks announced she had received “credible death threats” following her Wednesday vote.
“We condemn all threats against our colleagues and it is imperative that we come together. Stop. It’s abhorrent,” Jordan added.
Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), who has twice voted for Scalise instead of Jordan, said the opposition to Jordan was “profound” and that the members were against the Ohio Republican as a matter of principle. Womack added his office has received “nonstop” calls from Jordan supporters, most of them from out of state, and that his staff has been “cussed out” and threatened.
“It’s a matter of how you treat people, and, frankly, based on what I’ve been through and what my staff has been through, it’s obvious what the [pro-Jordan] strategy is: Attack, attack, attack,” Womack said.
Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said his wife had received anonymous texts and voice mails urging her to persuade her husband to support Jordan. Bacon has been adamant that he would not vote for Jordan as speaker.
One of the texts, which were reviewed by The Washington Post, demanded she tell the congressman to “step up and be a leader,” while another asked her why her “husband [is] causing chaos by not supporting Jim Jordan.”
On Thursday, Bacon said Jordan’s supporters “don’t play by the rules.”
“It’s wrong that folks have no boundaries anymore,” Bacon said. “We don’t live in fear, but holding people accountable is needed.”
Rep. Jen A. Kiggans (R-Va.), who has twice voted for McCarthy over Jordan, said in a social media post that “threats and intimidation tactics will not change my principles and values.”
Jordan’s staff has continually denied allegations of aggressive persuasion tactics.
As many Republicans began to acknowledge Wednesday that Jordan probably would not clinch the necessary votes to become speaker, a growing number of Republicans — many who opposed Jordan — were working with Democrats on a plan to empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.).
The Republican Governance Group, a group of 42 centrists led by Rep. David Joyce (Ohio), overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution to give McHenry temporary powers as speaker until Jan. 3, giving the House enough time to work in a bipartisan basis to address a number of end-of-year priorities, such as avoiding a government shutdown in mid-November and sending aid to Israel and Ukraine. Such a resolution is consistent with past precedent: Twice the House has voted to temporarily expand the powers of the speaker pro tempore, in 1998 and 1918.
Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that there was growing “momentum” in his caucus to pursue this option, and several Democrats have stressed that the House cannot afford to remain immobilized. Discussions about the plan have accelerated since Jordan lost his second attempt to become speaker, according to Democrats familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations.
“If we don’t see a speaker elected in this round, there’s going to be another candidate and another internal Republican conference vote and a secret ballot,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday in his nominating speech for Jeffries. “The country can’t afford more delays and more chaos. Fifteen days should be enough.”
But some key allies to McHenry, such as Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), said the GOP must hit rock bottom first before considering working across the aisle. On Wednesday morning, Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), a Jordan supporter, called the idea of expanding the speaker pro tempore’s powers a “non-starter.”
Given the lack of support on the Republican side, there is hesitancy on their end to introduce the privileged resolution because they do not want more Democrats than Republicans to help pass it. When McCarthy relied on Democratic support to pass a debt ceiling bill and extend government funding, it cost him his job. But some Republicans believe the writing is on the wall for Jordan and are expecting the Joyce resolution to be introduced before the end of the week to prevent the House from being frozen for a third week in a row.
Even if the resolution to empower McHenry gains support, ensuring it passes would not be simple. There are several procedural motions that could be made to kill the measure before a final passage vote. As a result, Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats are waiting for more support from within their conference to make sure its passage is bulletproof.
It is unclear when that consensus can be reached so the House can start functioning again.
Jacqueline Alemany, Mariana Alfaro, Paul Kane, Theodoric Meyer and Azi Paybarah contributed to this report.