Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), the baggage-touting, election-denying, shutdown enthusiast, who John Boehner once disgustedly christened a “legislative terrorist,” is trying to pitch himself as a Republican unifier ahead of his uncertain floor vote for speaker Tuesday.
“The principles that unite us as Republicans are far greater than the disagreements that divide us,” he wrote in a Monday letter to his colleagues. “And the differences between us and our Democrat colleagues vastly outweigh our internal divisions. The country and our conference cannot afford us attacking each other right now.”
Jordan’s call for unity is conveniently timed to his push for the gavel, the would-be apex of his journey from the party’s hard right flank to its top leadership post. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), prior to his ignominious toppling, did his part to drape Jordan in these establishment trappings by naming him head of the powerful House Judiciary Committee.
Jordan has emerged from the ashes of McCarthy’s humiliation and the power vacuum left by Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) bowing out as he failed to amass enough votes to win the gavel on the House floor.
It remains very unclear whether Jordan will be able to reach the 217-vote benchmark either. He made some progress Monday, steadily winning over a stream of members, including one who’d said “absolutely not” when asked if she’d support Jordan last week. But he has a steep hill to climb after falling about 65 votes short on Friday when members indicated in a secret ballot whether they’d back him in a full House vote.
In a strategy that breaks with Scalise’s, Jordan is reportedly pushing a House floor vote Tuesday afternoon whether or not he’s locked down the win beforehand. Jordan has also marshaled the power of the Trumpian right-wing ecosystem to browbeat the holdouts into getting behind him, per the New York Times.
In one example, staff with Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News are sending Republicans against Jordan’s speakership emails asking why “during a war breaking out between Israel and Hamas, with the war in Ukraine, with the wide open borders, with a budget that’s unfinished,” they would oppose Jordan’s bid, per Axios.
Some House Republicans, balking at the idea of the famously destructive Jordan taking over, are still casting about for increasingly unlikely alternatives.
“We have to have some legislation that gives the Speaker Pro Tem most of the powers of a speaker so that we can continue our business,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) — who has maintained for days that he supports McCarthy — told TPM late last week, saying that such a measure would apply to the leadership hole now, but also to a hypothetical future in which the speaker becomes incapacitated.
Other members too have floated giving current Pro Tem Patrick McHenry (R-NC) more authority, so he can conduct House business until a new speaker can wrangle sufficient support.
Some House Republicans, including vulnerable frontliner Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), have occasionally floated coming to an agreement with House Democrats to elect a moderate speaker. As TPM first reported, House Democrats would demand a power-sharing arrangement in exchange for bailing Republicans out of their internecine warfare, where Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) would have more control over which bills get to the floor. Some Democrats would reportedly also demand amending the one-member threshold for the motion to vacate rule, a sword of Damocles awaiting the new speaker that even Republican advocates for changing the rule told TPM is unlikely to go away.
Even for blue-district Republicans, though, throwing in with Democrats would amount to political suicide amid the party’s rightward march. And of late, they’ve dependably folded in the face of hard-right demands.
One of the PACs supporting a Democratic House majority, meanwhile, is rolling out a set of robocalls targeting the districts of vulnerable House Republicans and urging their constituents to tell them to vote against Jordan.
“Republicans have nominated Jim Jordan for Speaker, who voted to overturn the 2020 election, defended the criminals who attacked the Capitol on January 6th, and is in favor of an extreme agenda to ban abortion nationwide, cut veteran benefits by 22 percent, eliminate health insurance for 21 million Americans and fire 108,000 school teachers and aides,” the script begins, urging the constituent to call her congressperson.
It’s an early volley highlighting a certain Democratic tactic as the 2024 campaign heats up — if Jordan is elected speaker, pro-Democratic forces will work to ensure that every elected Republican is tarred with the same brush.