House Republicans ditched Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as their nominee for Speaker on Friday, thrusting the GOP conference back to square one and escalating the chaos that has ensnared the group for nearly three weeks.
Jordan is the second Speaker nominee to be rejected by House Republicans. Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who initially clinched the nomination over Jordan, withdrew his name from the race one day later after a number of Jordan supporters said they would not back him.
The turmoil comes after eight Republicans and Democrats opted to depose Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as Speaker in a historic — and stunning — fashion earlier this month.
Jordan’s repudiation underscores the deep and bitter divisions percolating through the GOP conference as it heads into a fourth week without a clear answer to the question: Who will be the next Speaker of the House?
Here are five takeaways on Jordan’s dismissal and the race for the gavel.
Can anyone get 217?
Another topsy-turvy week looms as House Republicans aim to nominate a third Speaker pick.
But it is not clear who, if anyone, can get to the number needed to clinch the gavel on the House floor — 217 votes, assuming all members are present and voting, which allows for just four GOP defections.
At least nine Republicans are already running or seriously considering a bid for Speaker. Those include House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) — who McCarthy endorsed — and Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern (R-Okla.).
But as the House comes up on three weeks without a Speaker, and members reflect on two failed nominees, there is plenty of skepticism that the fractious and slim GOP majority will be able to unify.
Scalise and Jordan both won their nominations by a relatively slim margin, and Jordan lost 25 Republican votes on this third ballot.
“I can tell you this,” Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.) told reporters on Thursday, “There ain’t 217 votes for Jesus, Mary or Joseph in there on any subject.”
Also looming over the conference is the question of whether to give Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) more power to move legislation as a Nov. 17 government deadline inches closer, and wars in Israel and Ukraine add pressure to pick a Speaker. The House GOP this week rejected a proposal to empower McHenry, but the option remains if the situation becomes more dire.
Supplemental, funding up the urgency
The war between Israel and Hamas and the looming government funding deadline have put added pressure on Republicans to coalesce around a new Speaker and get the House back up and running. Without a Speaker, the House is unable to conduct legislative business.
That urgency, however, was kicked up a notch on Friday, when the White House unveiled a $100 billion emergency funding request that includes money for border security, Israel and Ukraine. The fast-approaching Nov. 17 shutdown deadline is adding fuel to the fire.
McHenry sought to assuage concerns on Friday, telling reporters that committees are still able to work as legislative business remains at a standstill.
“On the national security front, we have fully constituted committees. Committees can still work, and they are working,” McHenry said, noting that the chairs of the Intelligence, Appropriations, and Armed Services committees “are all working.”
“I want to thank the administration for their briefings on the supplemental request for national security,” he said. “Our committees are working with the administration. And the goal there for our committees is to be ready to respond legislatively once we have a duly elected Speaker of the House. And it’s my goal to be talking to you at this time next Friday as chairman of the Financial Services Committee.”
Anger felt on all sides of conference
House Republicans are heading into round three of the Speaker showdown with lots of bad blood.
Scalise backers are frustrated that the Louisiana Republican was forced to withdraw from the race after Jordan supporters said they would not support him, and after Jordan did not immediately endorse him until later in the day.
Jordan backers are now incensed at the conference’s decision to dump the Ohio Republican in a secret ballot, and at Scalise backers for withholding support.
And hanging over it all is lingering anger at the eight Republicans who banded with Democrats to oust McCarthy from his post — a vote that set the current Speaker conundrum into motion.
During a closed-door conference meeting on Thursday, McCarthy scolded Gaetz when the Floridian tried to interrupt the Californian’s remarks, telling Gaetz to sit down.
“What history will look at: The crazy eight led by Gaetz — the amount of damage they have done to this party and this country in insurmountable,” McCarthy said after the conference voted to not keep Jordan as the nominee, referencing those who voted to oust him.
“I’m concerned about where we go from here,” McCarthy said.
On Friday, the Republicans who voted to boot McCarthy — minus Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who has opposed Jordan — wrote a letter to colleagues saying that they would accept a range of punishments for their actions if it meant lawmakers would unite around Jordan.
Republicans, however, voted to dump Jordan before it came under any serious consideration.
Lawmakers didn’t take kindly to pressure
Jordan allies — both inside the Capitol and in conservative media — deployed a pressure campaign to try and convince those withholding support from the Ohio Republican to flip their stances.
The strategy appears to have backfired.
Holdouts doubled and tripled down on their opposition to Jordan. And the number of Republicans withholding support for Jordan grew over the three ballots.
“That millisecond when anybody tries to intimidate me is the moment where they’re, that I am, I no longer have the flexibility because I will not be pressured or intimidated,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who supported Scalise in all three rounds of floor votes, said Tuesday.
Instead, a number of Jordan holdouts said they and their family members received threats, which sparked concerns on Capitol Hill.
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) said she received “credible death threats” after she voted against Jordan, and Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said his wife was sent “threatening” anonymous texts and phone messages. Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) said his family had received death threats.
Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said the secret ballot allowed more Republicans to voice their opposition to Jordan, which ultimately led to him being dropped from the nomination.
“I think that the idea of having a secret ballot really made it possible for those people that didn’t want their people back home to know who they voted for or who they didn’t vote for,” said Kelly, who refused to support Jordan.
“When you go to the secret ballot, then all of a sudden well nobody’s ever gonna know. All the totals, I think, were surprising. It was overwhelming,” he added.
Jordan will return to fighting Biden administration
Jordan, for his part, will remain chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and stay a prominent figure as the panel probes a swath of matters from the prosecution of Hunter Biden and former President Trump to the management of policies on U.S.-Mexico border.
“I’m also going to go back to work,” Jordan said after the GOP conference voted to not keep him as its Speaker nominee. “We got several depositions lined up next week in the Judiciary Committee, work that we need to do for the American people in our investigative work.”
Special counsel Davis Weiss, who is overseeing the investigation into President Biden’s son Hunter Biden, is set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee next week.
If the House GOP continues with an impeachment inquiry into Biden over his family’s foreign business dealings — an action that McCarthy had directed — any impeachment articles would come out of Jordan’s committee and he would likely take a major role in it.
Rebecca Beitsch contributed.