Rep. Jim Jordan’s speakership bid is on life support Thursday after two failed votes on the floor.
Rep. Jim Jordan’s speakership bid is on life support Thursday after two failed votes on the floor. Jordan lost 20 votes on the first ballot and attempts to pressure and intimidate his opponents appear to have backfired, costing him even more votes and entrenching his opposition.
- Jordan (R-OH), the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, only won 200 votes in Tuesday’s speakership vote, and his 199-vote tally on the second ballot was the fewest number of votes any majority-party nominee for speaker has received in well over 100 years.
- The Ohio Republican picked up two votes on the second ballot, but lost four others, leading to a net decline in his support. Jordan needs 217 votes to become speaker, and his whip count seems certain to decline should he go through with the third round of balloting scheduled for later Thursday.
- Jordan’s opponents span the breadth of the conference and can’t be easily categorized. Some of his opponents won the tough races in swing districts that narrowly gave Republicans the majority in 2022, while others are appropriators or conservative defense hawks from the Deep South.
- A major factor contributing to his failure was the decision by his allies to launch a pressure campaign against his opponents to force them to bend the knee and vote for him. Jordan’s allies recruited local party bosses and prominent voices in conservative media to deliver one message to the holdouts: “Vote for Jordan – or else.”
- “Jim’s been nice, one-on-one, but his broader team has been playing hardball,” said Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), a prominent moderate Republican who represents a House district that President Joe Biden carried in 2020. Bacon told Politico his wife has received numerous calls and texts demanding that her “husband better support Jim Jordan.”
- Even Jordan’s supporters acknowledged his responsibility for the pressure campaign. “I think some of it did backfire…and I think it was to the detriment of Jim,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL). Making matters worse, some Republicans who stuck with him through two ballots are preparing to abandon him on the third. “I’m not voting for him,” one Jordan backer told Axios.
- Jordan condemned the pressure campaign conducted in his name in a post on X on Wednesday night. “No American should accost another for their beliefs. We condemn all threats against our colleagues and it is imperative that we come together,” Jordan wrote. “Stop. It’s abhorrent.”
- Jordan’s attempts to buy off his some of opponents – he reversed himself and pledged to support lifting the cap on state and local tax deductions put in place by former President Donald Trump’s tax reform legislation – came to naught and only helped entrench the fiscal conservatives opposed to his bid.
- Should the third ballot take place later Thursday as scheduled, the anti-Jordan faction expects things will get “a lot worse” for the Ohio Republican. Several Republicans who supported him have told media outlets they don’t plan to support him a third time, and he could lose as many as 10-15 additional votes on the third ballot, which would likely be a fatal blow to his ambitions.
- A group of Republicans led by Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH) are planning to bring a resolution to the floor that would empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-NC) for a short period to allow the House to consider legislation to keep the government open and support Israel.
- Former speakers John Boehner and Newt Gingrich endorsed the plan to empower McHenry, and moderate Democrats have expressed support for this plan to end the deadlock.
- A contributing factor to Jordan’s failure is the widespread fears that his elevation to the speakership could cost Republicans the House. Already, Democratic groups are using Jordan’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election to attack swing-seat members like Rep. Michelle Steele (R-CA), according to the New York Times. Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), another Republican representing a district Biden won, said many of Jordan’s followers “want to be in the minority” and he’s not willing to “hurt the country” by elevating someone who could cost Republicans seats. Being in the minority is attractive to Jordan’s followers, Bacon explained, because “they can just vote no and just yell and scream all the time.”
- Many Jordan opponents were outspoken about the “threats and intimidation” they received from Jordan-aligned groups, according to the Washington Post. “Intimidation and threats will not change my position,” said Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the Chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, after the vote. Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-VA) posted on X, “I was a helicopter pilot in the United States Navy … threats and intimidation tactics will not change my principles and values.” Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL) raised the issue to Jordan’s face: “I told him, ‘I don’t really take well to threats.” Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) made it clear Jordan is “absolutely responsible” for the pressure campaign. “Look, it doesn’t work,” Rutherford continued. “Nobody likes to have their arm twisted.”
- Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) elaborated about the pressure campaign to CNN. “Frankly, just based on what I’ve been through – I can only speak to myself and what my staff has been through over the last 24 or 48 hours – it is obvious what the strategy has been: Attack, attack, attack,” Womack said. “Attack the members who don’t agree with you, attack them, beat them into submission.”
- The Wall Street Journal also covered how Jordan’s efforts to have local Republican officials and outside groups pressure his opponents backfired. The Republican opposition to Jordan seems even more dug in and immovable after Jordan’s pressure campaign. Rep. Womack said his staff had been “cussed out” over his opposition to Jordan. “We have a spine,” Rep. Bacon, a retired general, told the Wall Street Journal.
- One House Republican reported receiving “credible” death threats after voting against Jordan on the second ballot, according to the Washington Examiner. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) said she changed her vote in part because of the “threatening tactics” of Jordan’s supporters. “One thing I cannot stomach or support is a bully,” she said.
- National Review noted one potential Jordan replacement could be Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), the vice chairman of the GOP conference. Johnson is expected to seek a promotion should Jordan drop out, but for the time being remains committed to Jordan. “I’m committed to Jordan. I’m trying to help,” Johnson said. “There’s just a lot of frustration and I don’t think a lot of it is directed at Jim. I think it’s there’s just a lot of angst and frustration about developments over the last few weeks.
© Dominic Moore, 2023