House Republicans are backing off a plan to solve their leadership crisis by tapping a temporary speaker and instead say they plan to vote for a third time on Rep. Jim Jordan’s nomination.
The reversal followed a raucous conference meeting where conservatives attacked a proposal that would have let Speaker Pro Tempore McHenry bring legislation to the House floor until January, in part because it would have almost certainly needed Democratic votes to pass. Lawmakers also questioned the constitutionality of the idea, and reportedly waved pocket copies of the founding document.
Afterwards, GOP lawmakers said the measure appeared to be dead on arrival and that a third vote on Jordan’s candidacy could come Thursday. Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla. told reporters that empowering McHenry would have likely required mostly Democratic votes to pass, and “would set off the fuse that would certainly end in a civil war within the GOP.”
“I think people recognize they’re playing with fire,” Cammack told Semafor.
Jordan himself backed the measure to empower McHenry, but did not plan to drop out of the speaker’s race. Instead, he intended to spend the next two months gathering support for his bid while McHenry temporarily oversaw legislative business in the chamber, according to an aide familiar with his thinking.
“We made the pitch to members on the resolution as a way to lower the temperature and get back to work,” Jordan said after leaving the GOP gathering. “We decided that wasn’t where we’re gonna go. I’m still running for speaker and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race.”
Jordan has already spent Thursday afternoon attempting to win over holdouts. During a brief conversation with a reporter from Semafor, Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y. received two separate phone calls from the speaker nominee.
The Ohio Republican later met with at least eight of the 22 opponents to his speakership for a little over an hour. But the meeting concluded with few House Republicans, if any, backing down in their resistance to Jordan. Some communicated they believed he should drop his embattled bid for the speakership.
“Our mind is set. He needed to know there’s no way forward for a speakership. He missed his moment in leadership when he failed Steve Scalise,” Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla. said. “That was pretty much everybody’s opinion.”
“I think he just wanted to hear from people,” Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., told Semafor. He said, ‘If I’ve done something wrong, tell me. If there’s something I can fix, tell me.’”
Not every Republican was convinced the idea to tap a temporary speaker was finished. Rep. Mike Lawler, another Jordan opponent, reiterated his support for reinstating Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker and called to provide McHenry with speaker-like powers on a temporary basis.
“I didn’t hear it was dead,” Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Ohio, who authored the resolution to empower McHenry, told reporters earlier in the day. “I think there are some of these folks in there who wish it was dead. But I think the overwhelming majority of the people in there agree that we can’t continue down in this paralysis.”