Jim Jordan Suspends Bid for House Speaker

Jim Jordan (Getty Images)
October 19, 2023

Hardline conservative Jim Jordan told his fellow Republicans he will suspend his bid to serve as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and back Republican Patrick McHenry to fill the role on a temporary basis, lawmakers said on Thursday.

The House has been without a leader for more than two weeks, and Jordan has twice failed to secure the 217 votes needed to claim the speaker's gavel as he has faced opposition from Democrats and more than 20 of his fellow Republicans.

Republican hardliners expressed outrage at the deal. That group had exercised enormous influence in the House through the course of this year, bringing Washington to the edge of default and the brink of a government shutdown in a budget-cutting drive that has had limited success so far.

Asked what he expected as he entered a closed-door meeting with other Republicans, Jordan said only, "I'm not gonna know until I talk to my colleagues."

In that meeting, Jordan said he would not seek a third vote to win the post and instead will back a plan to empower McHenry to hold the post until January, according to several lawmakers.

McHenry, who has served as acting speaker since Kevin McCarthy's ouster on Oct. 3, said only, "I've no comment. We're having an active and vigorous conversation."

That option, which Democrats have also said they might support, would allow Congress to get back to work. President Joe Biden is expected to ask Congress this week to approve as much as $60 billion for Ukraine and $10 billion for Israel, and funding for U.S. government operations is also due to expire in less than a month.

"I can't believe we're going down this route," Republican representative Jim Banks said.

Afternoon vote possible

The House could vote on that proposal in the afternoon, said Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who said she does not support it.

"Our Republican voters worked very hard to give us our majority. And this conference is broken because Republicans worked with Democrats and put us here," she said.

It was not clear whether Jordan, who is backed by former president Donald Trump, would drop his leadership bid entirely or continue to try to build support among Republicans.

The prolonged leadership battle has laid bare divisions among Republicans who control the chamber by a narrow 221-212 margin. Investors say the turmoil on Capitol Hill is also contributing to market volatility.

"Right now the Republican agenda, conservative agenda, is totally derailed," said Republican representative Mario Diaz-Balart, a Jordan opponent.

Jordan would be the third speaker candidate who has fallen victim to Republican infighting. Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the job on Oct. 3 by a small group of Republican insurgents. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, won his party's endorsement last week but dropped out after he was unable to consolidate support.

Jordan got 200 votes in his first attempt on Tuesday and 199 votes on Wednesday. One opponent, Republican representative Don Bacon, predicted he would lose another 10 votes in a third attempt.

Republicans who have voted against him have cited differences on taxes and spending and accuse him of undercutting Scalise's leadership bid last week. Others have objected to harassing phone calls and even death threats from his supporters.

Jordan's supporters say he would be an effective fighter for conservative polices in a city where Democrats control the White House and the Senate.

Unlike other leaders in Congress, Jordan built his profile as an uncompromising advocate for the party's right wing, clashing with Republicans and Democrats alike.

He encouraged government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018 and was a "significant player" in Trump's attempts to overturn Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 election win, according to a congressional investigation. He is helping to lead an impeachment investigation of Biden that has so far failed to find evidence of wrongdoing by the president.

(Reporting by David Morgan, Moira Warburton, and Makini Brice, additional reporting by Katharine Jackson, Davide Barbusca, and Julio-Cesar Chavez; writing by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool, and Nick Zieminski)