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Jordan loses ground on second speaker ballot

Some Republicans want to move now to expand Speaker Pro Tem McHenry's authority

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., gives the nominating speech for Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio,  for speaker on the House floor on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., gives the nominating speech for Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, for speaker on the House floor on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Opponents of House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan’s bid for the speaker’s gavel gained backing Wednesday, once again denying Jordan the gavel on the floor and with a slightly bigger margin than a day earlier.

The number of Jordan’s detractors grew on the second ballot, with 22 Republicans voting against him. Both Jordan’s allies and detractors predicted before the vote that he would lose support.

“K Street and old guard working to drive up the ‘no’ votes on Jordan tomorrow… and likely will move a few,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, posted on X Tuesday night. “The problem? Holding on to power doesn’t sell to Americans who want the change that Jim Jordan represents.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., said he continued to be dug in against Jordan’s candidacy.

“I think it gets more and more difficult for him every day … I think there’ll be a pickup of folks who will be voting for other people,” Diaz-Balart said after a meeting in Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s office Wednesday morning. “This candidate does not and will not be able to get the Republican votes to become speaker. So then now, I think all of us have to get together and figure out what’s the next step.”

Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif., changed his vote from Tuesday to support Jordan on the second ballot Wednesday, and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., who was absent Tuesday, came back Wednesday to vote for Jordan. Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., changed her vote from Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., to Jordan.

But several lawmakers added their votes to the anti-Jordan faction on Wednesday, pushing his net GOP opposition from 20 up to 22, and his vote total from 200 on Tuesday down to 199 on Wednesday. Democrats remained united behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who got 212 votes.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., switched his vote to back fellow Florida Republican Byron Donalds. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga., flipped to back House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La. — Jordan’s former chief rival.

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, a Jordan supporter on the first round, flipped to vote for House Appropriations Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, a surprise “no” vote on Jordan Tuesday. Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., switched his vote to support Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., the Natural Resources Committee chairman.

Some Republicans are now calling to give Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry, R-N.C., expanded powers so the House can get back to work. Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio., is aiming to introduce a resolution granting McHenry extended powers, a source familiar with the plans said Wednesday morning. 

“After two weeks without a speaker of the House and no clear candidate with 217 votes in the Republican conference, it is time to look at other viable options,” Joyce said. “By empowering Patrick McHenry as speaker pro tempore, we can take care of our ally Israel until a new speaker is elected.”

Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., another Jordan opponent, has his own resolution which would expand McHenry’s powers through Nov. 17, the deadline to pass a new stopgap funding bill to keep the government operating.

Kelly remained against Jordan on Wednesday, though he switched his vote from backing Scalise Tuesday to former Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who clashed with Jordan during his tenure as speaker.

‘Let’s get an answer’

Before the vote, Jordan maintained he was the best option though his path to the gavel looked murkier as his opposition dug in. He told reporters that the House should put both his candidacy as well as a resolution to expand McHenry’s role to a vote.

“Look, I think we got to decide today we’re gonna have a Republican speaker … or is the body going to adopt this resolution with the speaker pro tem, and I think both questions should be called,” Jordan said. “Let’s get an answer. We’ve been at this two weeks. The American people deserve to have their government functioning.”

Ohio GOP Reps. Jim Jordan, center, and David Joyce, right, speak before a House vote on electing Jordan speaker on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The vote on Joyce’s resolution could come up on Wednesday. It wasn’t clear such a measure could be adopted without Democratic votes, however, with some of Jordan’s backers and outside groups pushing against it as likely to empower Democrats.

“A Democrat-coalition government is a non-starter,” Emmer, R-Minn., said Wednesday.

Rep. Matt Rosensdale, R-Mont. — a Jordan supporter and one of the eight Republicans who voted to depose former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. — told CSPAN on Wednesday it would be a “huge mistake” to opt for an expanded speaker pro tempore role with McHenry at the helm.

Anti-spending hard-liners point to McHenry’s role negotiating the debt ceiling deal with its higher spending caps as evidence he’s not sufficiently committed to the cause.

“I’m very open to that,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said of an expanded McHenry role. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., the former No. 2 House Democrat, suggested some openness to the proposal as well.

“Look, that would have to be a Republican initiative. And we’d have to discuss what the terms of that are. But it is important for us to get the Congress working on behalf of the American people,” Hoyer said.

Jeffries, D-N.Y., said simply: “All options are on the table.”

Opponents of the move to expand McHenry’s role, which would allow him to bring spending bills to the floor, note that GOP members of the House Appropriations Committee have been leading the charge for a Jordan alternative.

Joyce, who backed his fellow Ohioan Jordan on both ballots this week but hasn’t been a vocal endorser, is the senior Republican on House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. Diaz-Balart chairs the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.

Granger, the full Appropriations Committee chairwoman, backed Diaz-Balart’s push for a quicker vote before Jordan could wrangle more holdouts. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho and Steve Womack, R-Ark., are also Appropriations Committee cardinals, or subcommittee chairs.

Tony Gonzales and Jake Ellzey of Texas and John Rutherford of Florida are also GOP appropriators who backed someone other than Jordan.

Diaz-Balart and some of the other anti-Jordan voters are allies of Scalise., who defeated Jordan on a 113-99 vote on the conference’s first ballot to pick a new speaker last week. But Scalise’s bid for the gavel was short-lived in the face of opposition from Jordan supporters. 

“The big spending, high inflation appropriations ‘cardinals’ are the center of gravity of the opposition to Jordan (Scalise supporters). Granger, Womack, Simpson & Diaz-Balart,” Russ Vought, who was President Donald Trump’s budget director, posted on X. “Only way to break them is wait them out & anyone voting with them & House Democrats for McHenry as acting Speaker is serving their interests.”

No alternative?

With Scalise out of the race, and Jordan’s bid hanging on by a thread, it’s not clear any other GOP members would throw their hat in the ring, or if it’s even possible for any Republican to get to 217. 

After the second-round vote Wednesday, Jordan left the floor to huddle with McCarthy, whose unprecedented ouster triggered the current mess.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla., publicly flirted with a bid earlier this month, and could get into the race if Jordan drops out. Emmer is another possible contender, as is Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. 

Another name that has come up is Rep. Tom Cole, who even earned a vote for speaker from Rep. John James, R-Mich., during Tuesday’s vote.

But Cole, a senior Appropriations panel member, gave Jordan’s speaker bid a key endorsement on Wednesday as the widely-respected Oklahoma Republican gave the nominating speech for Jordan.

“It takes a spine of steel to do this job, my friend has that determination,” Cole said. “In a moment of crisis, and we are in a moment of crisis, we should come together and act.”

Cole’s speech didn’t woo James, however, who continued to back someone other than Jordan. This time, it was former Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who served until 2017.

Still, the opposition to Jordan appears to run deep. Diaz-Balart hinted earlier in the day that Jordan surrogates have been threatening holdouts to his speaker’s bid, which he said was only making the Ohioan’s climb steeper.

“Whoever did that, two things: Be advised that it doesn’t work — never has, never will, at least not to real people who you know, who are honorable,” Diaz-Balart said before the vote. “And I think that was unfortunate. An unfortunate strategy, which I think unfortunately, is backfiring dramatically.”

Laura Weiss, Avery Roe, Ryan Tarinelli and Paul M. Krawzak contributed to this report.

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