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Jim Jordan faces 3rd House speaker vote Friday, as some Texas Republicans look elsewhere

GOP rejects expanded powers for a caretaker speaker as way to reopen the House.

Rep. Jim Jordan
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, leaves the Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.(Jose Luis Magana / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

By Todd J. Gillman and Joseph Morton

WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan set a Friday morning vote for his third try at becoming speaker, after fellow Republicans rejected his proposal Thursday to reopen the House by expanding the authority of a caretaker speaker.

Unprecedented and legally dubious, the idea of letting the House get back to work under a temp faced even more resistance than Jordan’s teetering campaign.

Late Thursday, word spread that some Texas Republicans were ready to push an alternative to the firebrand conservative.

Many Republicans, including Jordan supporters, viewed his caretaker proposal as a way to play for time indefinitely and hope the resistance eventually backs down. He’s gone 0-for-2 this week on the House floor, with 20 fellow Republicans opposing him for speaker on the first try, and 22 on the second try.


The trend did not bode well, and there were no signs Jordan made any headway Thursday.

The post has been vacant since Oct. 3. That has paralyzed the House, whose rules require an elected speaker to conduct any business.

“He’s had two votes,” said Irving Rep. Beth Van Duyne, who voted for Jordan on both ballots. “If he thinks he’s making progress since we had our last vote, fine. But if he’s not, we need to move on.”

The GOP caucus met for hours, and Jordan met with many of the 22 holdouts late in the afternoon, including one of the three Texans, Midlothian Rep. Jake Ellzey.

Ellzey wouldn’t discuss his views or the meeting. Others said they’d aired concerns about the firebrand conservative. Some urged him to drop his bid for speaker.


Jordan retreated to his office without revealing his intentions, patience wearing thin even among supporters for him to either win or quit soon.

“We need to get a speaker now,” said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Willow Park.

“His number yesterday was 22 short. That’s a lot of ground to make up. I support him, but he needs to take a hard look at it and if he can’t get to 217 he probably needs to step back,” he said. “Probably a decision like that could be made in the next 24 hours.”

Jordan collected 200 votes Tuesday with 20 Republican defections, and 199 on the second ballot a day later with 22 defections — far shy of the 217 majority needed.

Republicans in many factions called for a “reset,” though there was no consensus on what that would entail.


Limited authority

The House reconvened at noon eastern just long enough for acting speaker pro tem Rep. Patrick McHenry to call the House to order, preside over an opening prayer, and declare a recess until further notice.

That’s about the extent of his authority, other than to preside over the election of a new speaker.

McHenry spoke out against Jordan’s push to expand his authority during the closed-door meeting, at which tempers flared and some colleagues urged Jordan to drop out.

Eventually, GOP lawmakers declared the proposal to expand McHenry’s powers dead.

“It’s a mistake,” Van Duyne said about empowering McHenry. “You need to pick a speaker. You need to empower someone who can negotiate with the White House, who can negotiate with the Senate, who can work on a long-term budget plan. Having a temporary [speaker] is just kicking the can down the road.”


Experts on House rules say it would take only a simple majority to adopt a resolution electing McHenry as speaker pro tem. That would remove the “acting” from his title and confer all the powers of the speakership.

The idea fell flat among Republicans.

That left Jordan with few options: seek a third floor vote, keep working to flip holdouts, or step aside and let another Republican take a crack at it. A third rejection would be an unmistakable repudiation.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee talks to reporters as...
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee talks to reporters as leaves the Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023.(Jose Luis Magana / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Jordan is the second Republican nominee to replace Kevin McCarthy since eight rebels led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., forced a vote that led to his ouster. The former speaker’s transgression: cutting a 45-day stopgap deal to avert a federal shutdown.

Republicans who’d opposed McCarthy’s ouster fumed Thursday as the turmoil persisted.

“The embarrassing, and entirely avoidable, institutional collapse we’re witnessing was caused by a handful of our colleagues who teamed up with Democrats to oust a Republican Speaker — without a backup plan,” freshman Rep. Monica De La Cruz, R-McAllen, posted online. “All for clicks and fundraising. Pathetic. Politics is not entertainment.”

The first GOP nominee to replace McCarthy was Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana. He’s as conservative as Jordan but less combative.

Scalise topped Jordan for the nomination but dropped out after only one day when dozens of his rival’s allies refused to commit their support on the floor.

Republicans hold a meager 221-212 edge in the House, so it takes just five defections to block a majority.

Three Texas Republicans opposed Jordan on both ballots: Ellzey, Rep. Kay Granger of Fort Worth and Rep. Tony Gonzales of San Antonio. All serve on the Appropriations Committee. Granger is the chairwoman.

The other 22 Texas Republicans backed Jordan.

“I would hope people can get there,” said Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Victoria. “It’s obvious who the American people want.”

There’s no set schedule for balloting to fill a speaker vacancy, nor any rule forcing Jordan to drop his bid once his prospects look hopeless.

The judiciary chairman won the GOP nod Friday on an anemic 124-81 vote. In a secret ballot shortly afterward, 55 Republicans indicated they would refuse to support him on the floor.

Giving McHenry the authority of an elected speaker would be a way to let the House get back to work.

High priorities include a massive emergency military aid package President Joe Biden was crafting to help Ukraine and Israel in their wars with Russia and Hamas, respectively.

There’s also a mid-November deadline to keep the government open.

Some House Republicans liked the idea of putting McHenry in charge temporarily, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Humble. He saw no legal impediment, though others vehemently disagreed.

”I’m certainly on the side of empowering McHenry because the speaker is there to process bills coming to the floor. The real work up here happens in committees,” he said before the proposal fizzled entirely.

Rep. Pat Fallon of Sherman blasted the proposal as “garbage” and a dereliction of the GOP majority’s duty to lead.

“If Jim can’t make it, then we’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “I’ll give him more time. He’d be great as speaker. But at some point, what’s the definition of insanity? Doing the exact same thing, expecting a different result.”

Rep. Troy Nehls of Richmond called it “sickening” that any Republican would even entertain a coalition with Democrats to install a House leader. He’d previously promoted former president Donald Trump for the job and resurrected that proposal Thursday.

Jordan allies warned holdouts they would face backlash from constituents if they didn’t come around.

They’d been counting on pressure from conservative media figures and party activists to facilitate that. Instead, the hardball tactics hardened the resistance among holdouts, including lawmakers from districts where voters picked Biden.

Some said they’d been flooded with phone calls from outside their districts, and by anonymous and threatening texts to their spouses if they didn’t fall in line.

Jordan was the founding chairman of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, created by lawmakers who deemed another conservative bloc, the Republican Study Committee, too soft and too willing to compromise.

GOP rules require members to support the caucus’s nominee for speaker. Enough Jordan backers ignored the rule to scuttle Scalise’s bid.

That left many in Scalise’s camp bitter, and refusing to reward the bareknuckle tactics by aiding Jordan.

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

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