House Republicans are struggling to figure out what to do next after conservative hardliner Jim Jordan lost two rounds of votes to become speaker.
(Bloomberg) — House Republicans are struggling to figure out what to do next after conservative hardliner Jim Jordan lost two rounds of votes to become speaker.
The leadership position has been vacant for more than two weeks and the House is unable to conduct any business, including addressing aid for Israel in its war with Hamas or funding measures to avoid an impending mid-November US government shutdown.
Jordan is Republicans’ second nominee to replace Kevin McCarthy, who was toppled Oct. 3 by eight dissident GOP conservatives who joined with unified Democrats to remove him. The GOP’s initial nominee, No. 2 party leader Steve Scalise, withdrew when he was unable to muster enough support from Republicans.
Here are some options for next steps:
Jordan Grinds On
Jordan remains the party’s nominee for speaker. He can stay in the race indefinitely whether he’s the nominee or not. It took McCarthy a humiliating 15 rounds of votes on the House floor to win the job in January.
While the second vote showed Jordan’s support declining and his confrontational style has made him plenty of enemies within his own party, Jordan still has assets. Among them, the backing of former President Donald Trump and full-throated support from prominent right-wing media personalties including Glenn Beck and Fox News’s Sean Hannity.
Jordan could try to strike a deal with moderates and Appropriations Committee members who oppose him, but he has no track record of finding compromise. Opponents say they are worried his leadership would lead to a government shutdown or across-the-board federal spending cuts.
Caretaker Takes Reins
Some Republicans and Democrats have raised the possibility of expanding the powers of caretaker Speaker Patrick McHenry so that the House can resume business.
The caretaker position was established after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has been largely interpreted as limited to presiding over the choice of a new speaker. Among those who have indicated that view is McHenry himself.
But a majority of the House could expand his powers to install McHenry as a fully empowered temporary leader. That would allow Republicans to hash out a long-term replacement under less time pressure.
Republicans Seek Consensus
Hardliners exercised a veto over the party establishment in scuttling Scalise’s bid. Now, moderates and members of the powerful Appropriations Committee appear to be exercising a veto over hardliners in blocking Jordan’s bid.
Republicans could try to seek a consensus choice from among candidates who so far have stayed out of the factional strife over the speakership.
There were as of Wednesday afternoon no announced other candidates to make a run at it. But some of the names being floated include the current No. 3 House Republican, Tom Emmer of Minnesota; House Conference Vice Chair Mike Johnson of Louisiana; and Kevin Hern, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest ideological group in the House GOP. These candidates do not have the same history of attacks against moderates that Jordan has.
Republicans also could also turn to GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik as a compromise choice.
Moderates Forge Coalition
A cross-party coalition is a last resort in the current US climate of intense partisan tribalism.
Still, should GOP moderates from New York districts and other swing areas eventually decide their fellow Republicans won’t agree on an acceptable speaker, they could combine with some or all Democrats to pick their own speaker.
The 18 Republican House members elected from areas that supported Joe Biden in the 2020 election are at least theoretically the swing votes in the House’s ideological center. Still, any lawmaker who crossed party lines would risk fierce backlash from key supporters and donors.
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