GOP’s Jordan says he’s still running for House gavel, but plan for a temporary speaker falls flat

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee leaves the Republican caucus meeting Thursday at the Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON — Refusing to give up, Rep. Jim Jordan told GOP colleagues Thursday he was still running for the House gavel — leaving Republicans few viable options after his hardline backers resisted a plan to expand the temporary speaker’s powers to re-open the House.

The combative Jordan delivered the message at a fiery closed-door meeting at the Capitol as the Republican majority considered an extraordinary plan to give the interim speaker pro tempore more powers for the next several months to bring the House back into session and conduct crucial business, according to Republicans familiar with the private meeting who insisted on anonymity to discuss it.

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But neither option seemed immediately workable. GOP moderates who have twice rejected Jordan are unwilling to support him now, especially after some report harassing pressures and even death threats from his supporters. At the same time, Jordan’s hard-right allies are refusing to allow a temporary speaker to gain more power.

The prolonged stalemate risks keeping the House intractably shut down for the foreseeable future after the unprecedented ouster of Kevin McCarthy as speaker,

“I’m still running for speaker and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race,” said Jordan, the Judiciary Committee chairman and founder of the hardline House Freedom Caucus.

Thursday’s meeting grew heated at times with Republican factions blaming one another for sending their majority into chaos, lawmakers said.

When Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a chief architect of the ouster of the speaker two weeks ago, rose to speak, McCarthy told him it was not his turn.

“We’re shaking up Washington, D.C. We’re breaking the fever. And, you know what, it’s messy,” Gaetz said later.

With Jordan refusing to concede and his hard-right detractors rejecting the longshot idea of installing McHenry as a temporary speaker, there are few options left to put the shattered House back to normal.

The House convened briefly at midday Thursday, but no action was taken, the schedule ahead uncertain.

There is a sinking realization that the House could remain endlessly stuck, out of service and without a leader for the foreseeable future as the Republican majority spirals deeper into dysfunction.

“We’re trying to figure out if there’s a way we can get back with a Republican-only solution,” said veteran legislator Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

“That’s what normal majorities do. What this majority has done is prove it’s not a normal majority.”

Elevating McHenry to an expanded speaker’s role would not be as politically simple as it might seem. The hard-right Republican lawmakers including some who ousted McCarthy, don’t like the idea.

“Asinine,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a leader of far-right House Freedom Caucus.

While Democrats have suggested the arrangement, Republicans are loathe to partner with the Democrats in a bipartisan way. And it’s highly unlikely Republicans could agree give Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry more powers on their own, even though they have majority control of the House.

“It’s a bad precedent and I don’t support it,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the Freedom Caucus chairman.

McHenry himself has brushed off attempts to take the job more permanently after he was appointed to the role more than two weeks ago.

“I did not ask for additional powers,” said McHenry of North Carolina, a Republican who is well-liked by his colleagues and viewed as a highly competent legislator. “My duty is to get the next speaker elected. That’s my focus.”

But McCarthy himself explained that he tapped McHenry for the role, created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to ensure continuity of government, because he “wanted somebody that could work with all sides. And McHenry is ideal for all that.”

Next steps were highly uncertain as angry, frustrated Republicans predict the House could stay essentially shuttered, as it has been almost all month, until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.

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