WASHINGTON (AP) — Refusing to give up, Rep. Jim Jordan told GOP colleagues Thursday he was still running for the House gavel — leaving Republicans few viable options after his hardline backers resisted a plan to expand the temporary speaker’s powers to re-open the House.
The combative Jordan delivered the message at a fiery closed-door meeting at the Capitol as the Republican majority considered an extraordinary plan to give the interim speaker pro tempore more powers for the next several months to bring the House back into session and conduct crucial business, according to Republicans familiar with the private meeting who insisted on anonymity to discuss it.
But neither option seemed immediately workable. GOP moderates who have twice rejected Jordan are unwilling to support him now, especially after some report harassing pressures and even death threats from his supporters. At the same time, Jordan’s hard-right allies are refusing to allow a temporary speaker to gain more power.
The prolonged stalemate risks keeping the House intractably shut down for the foreseeable future after the unprecedented ouster of Kevin McCarthy as speaker.
“I’m still running for speaker and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race,” said Jordan, the Judiciary Committee chairman and founder of the hardline House Freedom Caucus.
Thursday’s meeting 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.
With Jordan refusing to concede and his hard-right detractors rejecting the longshot idea of installing McHenry as a temporary speaker, there are few options left to put the shattered House back to normal.
The House convened briefly at midday Thursday, but no action was taken, the schedule ahead uncertain.
There is a sinking realization that the House could remain endlessly stuck, out of service and without a leader for the foreseeable future as the Republican majority spirals deeper into dysfunction.
“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.”
Elevating McHenry to an expanded speaker’s role would not be as politically simple as it might seem. The hard-right Republican lawmakers including some who ousted McCarthy, don’t like the idea.
“Asinine,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a leader of far-right House Freedom Caucus.
While Democrats have suggested the arrangement, Republicans are loathe to partner with the Democrats in a bipartisan way. And it’s highly unlikely Republicans could agree give Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry more powers on their own, even though they have majority control of the House.
“It’s a bad precedent and I don’t support it,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the Freedom Caucus chairman.
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 did not ask for additional powers,” said McHenry of North Carolina, a Republican who is well-liked by his colleagues and viewed as a highly competent legislator. “My duty is to get the next speaker elected. That’s my focus.”
But McCarthy himself explained that he tapped McHenry for the 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.”
Next steps were highly uncertain as angry, frustrated Republicans predict the House could stay essentially shuttered, as it has been almost all month, until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.
“I think clearly Nov. 17 is a real date,” said Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., who leads a large conservative caucus, referring to the next deadline
What was clear was that Jordan’s path to become House speaker was almost certainly lost.
On Wednesday, Jordan, failed in a crucial second ballot, opposed by 22 Republicans, two more than he lost in first-round voting the day before.
Many view the Ohio congressman as too extreme for a central seat of U.S. power and resented the harassing hardball tactics from Jordan’s allies for their votes. Several lawmakers said they had received death threats.
“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 and a barrage of threatening calls.”
To win over his GOP colleagues, Jordan had relied on backing from Trump, the party’s front-runner in the 2024 election to challenge President Joe Biden, and groups pressuring rank-and-file lawmakers for the vote. But they were not enough and in fact backfired on some.
Flexing their independence, the holdouts are a mix of pragmatists — ranging from seasoned legislators and committee chairs worried about governing, to newer lawmakers from districts where voters prefer Biden to Trump. Jordan’s refusal to concede only further emboldened some of the Republicans.
“The way out is that Jim Jordan has got to pull his name,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who voted twice against him. “He’s going to have to call it quits.”
Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., said “it’s not going to happen.”
With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, it appears no Republican candidate can win a clear majority, 217 votes, if there are no absences.
The novel concept of boosting the interim speaker’s role was gaining favor with a pair of high-profile Republicans: former GOP speakers Newt Gingrich and John Boehner.
But it seemed to be slipping away as Republicans do not have support from their own ranks to put it in place on their own, and refused to reach across the aisle to Democrats who have expressed a willingness to consider the option.
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.