Refusing to drop out, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan told GOP colleagues Thursday he will back a temporary U.S. House speaker as he works to shore up support to win the gavel himself.
Jordan delivered the message at a closed door meeting at the Capitol as the Republican majority considered an extraordinary plan to give the interim Speaker Pro-tempore Rep. Patrick McHenry more powers to reopen the House and conduct crucial business.
That’s according to Republicans familiar with the private meeting and granted anonymity to discuss it.
The House is tentatively set to convene Thursday afternoon, but it’s doubtful now that Jordan will immediately try again to win a vote to become speaker. The hard-fighting ally of Donald Trump has been unable to win, but he and his far-right allies won’t step aside for a more viable GOP nominee.
At the same time, 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. The impasse has left some Republican lawmakers settling in for a protracted stretch.
“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 for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.
Next steps were highly uncertain Thursday as angry, frustrated Republicans looked at other options.
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. One lawmaker said they had received death threats.
“We’ll keep talking to members, keep working on it,” Jordan, a founding member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, said after the vote.
The House came to another abrupt standstill, 16 days now since the sudden ouster of Kevin McCarthy without a speaker — a position of power second in line to the presidency.
As Republicans upset and exhausted by the infighting retreated for private conversations, hundreds of demonstrators massed outside the Capitol over the Israel-Hamas war, a stark reminder of the concern over having the House adrift as political challenges intensify at home and abroad.
“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.”
After Wednesday’s vote, McCarthy and other party leaders appeared to tentatively rally around Jordan, giving the combative Judiciary Committee chairman the time he was demanding, though it was doubtful he could shore up enough votes.
With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, Jordan must pick up most of his GOP foes to win. Wednesday’s tally, with 199 Republicans voting for Jordan and 212 for Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, left no candidate with a clear majority.
The holdouts added to a surprisingly large and politically diverse group of 20 Republicans who had rejected Jordan’s nomination the day before.
Jordan’s refusal to concede only further embittered some of the Republicans, who were upset that the party’s first choice, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, was essentially forced to drop his own bid 24 hours after a failed vote last week in large part because Jordan’s backers refused to give their support.