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Jordan struggles as Republicans slide deeper into division

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As he left the chamber Tuesday afternoon after Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was roundly rejected as House speaker, Rep. James Comer, Republican of Kentucky and staunch Jordan supporter, spoke on behalf of many members of his party in difficulty: “I don’t know what to think. .”

While it was impossible to determine how, when, or even if Republicans could emerge from the current chaos, what was clear was that the House Republican Party is severely gridlocked and in crisis, unable to choose a leader at a time of international upheaval.

To add to the uncertainty, Mr. Jordan, this far-right agitator who built his reputation by torpedoing the compromises of traditional Republicans whom he considered insufficiently conservative, found himself in the improbable position of having to bargain with these same colleagues to gain their support. It was an uphill battle for a man once called a “legislative terrorist” by his own party’s president, and one for which he was not particularly well suited after 16 years in Congress during which he failed not sponsored a single bill that became law.

The dilemma sums up the turmoil within the House Republican Party two weeks after Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the speakership by a group of far-right rebels who were furious over his compromises with Democrats to avoid a default catastrophic payment of the federal debt in the spring and a government. stop this month. Now, House Republicans find themselves unable to rally around Mr. Jordan, the hardline candidate to replace him. Mainstream lawmakers – usually those who try to cut deals and build consensus – have refused to accept the prospect of Mr Jordan rising to the post of second in line to the presidency.

Some remain unhappy with the manner in which Mr. McCarthy was removed from office. Others are angry that many Republicans abandoned Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the party’s No. 2 in the House, as majority leader, after initially defeating Mr. Jordan in an internal vote for the nomination. president. Some simply don’t want Mr. Jordan and see him as a threat to their re-election and the smooth running of government.

“I voted for whoever won the election,” said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida, who voted for Mr. Scalise on the floor and seemed unlikely to give ground to the future, no matter how. many votes took place.

While Mr. Jordan was at least initially blocked and the vote was postponed until Wednesday, Republicans and Democrats were intensifying quiet discussions about a potential solution that would somehow empower Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, who has served as acting president since Mr. McCarthy’s ouster. , to direct the affairs of the House, even temporarily. Some said they increasingly saw it as the only way out, and Mr. Diaz-Balart said it would be “very prudent and smart” to turn to Mr. McHenry.

Members of both parties grew increasingly frustrated as the embarrassing and paralyzing impasse left the House unable to respond to the Middle East conflict or do virtually anything else. The situation deteriorated Tuesday with the Senate returning to town after a recess and moving toward a resolution in favor of Israel.

After Republicans ended the second speaker’s vote on Tuesday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries took to the steps of the Capitol to lambast Republicans for their predicament. He urged them to work with Democrats to find a solution, although he did not specify what it would be. He suggested he did not expect Republican support to become president himself, but said there were “many good men and women on the Republican side of the aisle who are qualified to to be Speaker of the House of Representatives” — not counting Mr. Jordan, he added, calling him “a spokesperson for MAGA extremism.”

It is not a sign of strength on the part of Mr. Jordan and his supporters that after declaring there would be a second vote on Tuesday, they abandoned that strategy, probably aware that they would lose again . His critics, on the other hand, had pressed for an immediate review of the vote, hoping to defeat him a second time and perhaps force him to step down, as Mr. Scalise did last week when it became clear that ‘he could not prevail on the vote. ground.

Mr. Jordan and his allies hoped to defeat holdouts through a mix of calls for party unity, negotiations and a social media-fueled pressure campaign that was already sparking a backlash and could prompt more defections in the next round. Mr. Jordan was also apparently rebuffed by Mr. Scalise when he asked for help in converting those still seething over the majority leader’s treatment.

Even as tensions continued, questions arose about what it would take for Mr. Jordan to step aside if he failed a second time, given that he has built his reputation as a partisan brawler willing to fight that far as possible. . Mr. McCarthy, of course, endured 14 rounds of voting in January before winning the presidency on the 15th and Mr. Jordan might be reluctant to surrender quickly, particularly if he gained even a little support.

The floor showdown also gave Republicans a taste of what they might expect from Democrats if they end up siding with Mr. Jordan. When Representative Pete Aguilar of California, the third-ranking House Democrat, nominated Mr. Jeffries as the Democratic nominee for president, he took the rare step of attacking Mr. Jordan at the same time, providing a template for political attacks by his party against Republicans who embraced the Ohio Republican. He made it clear that every comment and position Mr. Jordan had made or taken would hang on the necks of the House Republicans who supported him — and 200 of them did so on Tuesday, even though he did not. didn’t succeed.

Mr. Aguilar highlighted Mr. Jordan’s support for a series of far-right conservative policies on abortion and spending as well as his refusal to certify the 2020 election results after the January 6 Capitol assault, calling him an “inciter of insurrection”.

“Let’s be clear,” he warned Republicans, “a vote for the gentleman from Ohio is a vote to turn our back on national security. “It’s a vote to turn our back on the bipartisan path to funding government and avoiding shutdowns.”

As members of both parties debate who might garner the 217 votes needed to win the gavel, it has also highlighted the looming challenges for whoever ends up in that position.

Appearing on CNN, Rep. Ken Buck, the Colorado Republican who voted for Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the No. 3 Republican, for president, said he didn’t really support him for the job and that he didn’t like Mr. Emmer.

He later clarified on social media that he was joking and did not intend to inflict the pain of the presidency on Mr. Emmer.

“The position of Speaker of the House is the most difficult job in Washington,” Mr. Buck wrote. “I wouldn’t wish that on my good friend.”

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nytimes

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