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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Jordan Defeated Again for House Speaker as Republican Stalemate Deepens

U.S.Jordan Defeated Again for House Speaker as Republican Stalemate Deepens

Representative Jim Jordan, the hard-line Republican from Ohio, lost a second bid for speaker on Wednesday after running headlong into opposition from a group of mainstream G.O.P. holdouts who vowed to block the ultraconservative from the leadership post.

Mr. Jordan said he would keep fighting to secure the majority of votes he needs to become speaker, and spent much of Wednesday afternoon meeting with some of the holdouts. But it was clear after the second ballot that there was no immediate end in sight to the stalemate that has left the House leaderless and in turmoil after two weeks of Republican infighting.

Republicans adjourned the House on Wednesday evening and were set to reconvene at noon on Thursday to find a way forward.

As the chaos continued, a group of Republicans and Democrats was discussing taking explicit action to empower Representative Patrick T. McHenry, the North Carolina Republican who has been serving as temporary speaker, to conduct legislative business on the House floor, which has been paralyzed for weeks. But Republicans were divided even on doing that, with some Jordan loyalists arguing that it would set a damaging precedent.

Still, many lawmakers have grown deeply alarmed about the absence of an elected speaker as wars are raging in Israel and Ukraine and the government is within weeks of shutting down if Congress fails to reach a spending agreement.

Allies of Mr. Jordan, the co-founder of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, had initially hoped he would pick up momentum on the second vote. Instead, the number of Republicans refusing to back him grew by two on Wednesday. Mr. Jordan won 199 votes and Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic leader, won 212 votes. Four Republicans who had voted for Mr. Jordan on the first ballot rose to oppose him, and two Republicans who had voted against Mr. Jordan on the first ballot changed their votes and supported him.

“We picked up some today, a couple dropped off,” Mr. Jordan said after the vote. “But they voted for me before, I think they can come back again.” He noted that former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s bid for the top job had also stalled after around 20 holdouts opposed him on multiple ballots.

But several of the mainstream Republicans who voted against Mr. Jordan said they were irrevocably opposed to his candidacy, and predicted that opposition to the Ohio Republican would only grow. Many of them said they were emboldened to hold their ground by the pressure campaign that Mr. Jordan’s allies unleashed on them over the weekend to try to get them to cave and support him. The tactics included posting the holdouts’ names and office phone numbers to social media and in some cases running robocalls in their districts.

“Somebody advising him thought it was a good idea to try to shine a spotlight on us and to try to shame us on the floor,” Representative Nick LaLota of New York said. “That tactic obviously didn’t work. It probably dug some members in stronger.”

Mr. Jordan and his allies had made the calculation that the lawmakers opposing him, almost entirely from the party’s more mainstream wing, would fall into line when forced to vote against him on the House floor, facing pressure from conservative voters and media personalities. Those moderate lawmakers normally seek compromise, and the bet was that they would want to quickly patch over Republican divisions and move forward to get the House working again in regular order.

Instead, said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, one of the holdouts, the strategy “backfired dramatically.”

Mr. Diaz-Balart added of Mr. Jordan’s path to the speakership, “I think it gets more and more difficult for him every day.”

“If you succumb to threats and intimidation and all that, the rest of your life you’ll just be threatened and intimidated,” said Representative Carlos Gimenez of Florida, who has said he will continue voting for Mr. McCarthy.

The vote underscored the deep rifts inside the House Republican conference, but it also signaled how far the group has lurched to the right. Among the 199 Republicans who voted for Mr. Jordan were many mainstream Republicans, including a dozen from districts President Biden won in 2020, all of whom were willing to give Mr. Jordan the post second in line to the presidency.

Those were votes to elevate a lawmaker who helped Mr. Trump try to overturn the 2020 election, who has used his power in Congress to defend the former president and whose long track record of opposing compromise prompted a previous Republican speaker to brand him a “legislative terrorist.”

In the absence of a clear path forward, there was growing discussion about holding a vote to approve giving Mr. McHenry control over the House floor until the deadlock could be broken, perhaps through Jan. 3.

Mr. McHenry is acting as temporary speaker under rules adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that require the speaker of the House to come up with a list of people to fill the post in the event that it becomes vacant. When Mr. McCarthy was booted out by a right-wing rebellion two weeks ago, the world learned that Mr. McHenry was the first name on his list.

Many House aides believe that Mr. McHenry’s power is strictly confined to presiding over the election of a new speaker, as he has been doing this week. But because this situation has not come up before, some congressional scholars argue that the bounds of the acting speaker’s power are largely dependent on what a majority of members are willing to authorize.

Some Republicans, particularly Mr. Jordan’s staunchest supporters, have resisted such a move because it would sap momentum for the party to unite behind him — or any other Republican. They argued that the maneuver would set a damaging precedent.

“I violently oppose any effort to do that on the House floor,” said Representative Chip Roy, Republican of Texas, calling the idea “directly contrary to the Constitution.”

In the meantime, many Republicans were openly fretting that their deep internal divisions were hanging a political albatross around the party’s neck ahead of the 2024 election.

“I just want to get us to an option where we can get this place functioning again,” said Representative Steve Womack of Arkansas, one of the holdouts against Mr. Jordan. “We need to rebrand ourselves, I think, and get back to running this government.”

Reporting was contributed by Kayla Guo, Luke Broadwater, Annie Karni, Robert Jimison and Carl Hulse.

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