WASHINGTON — Hardline conservative Jim Jordan pressed ahead with his floundering bid for speaker of the United States House of Representatives on Thursday (Oct 19), after his fellow Republicans abandoned a backup plan to allow the leaderless chamber to resume business.
The House will hold a third speaker vote when it opens for business at 10am local time (10pm Singapore time) on Friday, his spokesperson Russell Dye said. Mr Jordan has come up short in two votes already.
“I’m still running for speaker and I plan to go to the floor and get the votes and win this race,” Jordan told reporters earlier in the day.
Mr Jordan met with some of the 22 fellow Republicans who have voted against him, but he did not appear to change any minds.
“We all told him that we’re solid no’s. That was the discussion,” Republican Representative Vern Buchanan told reporters. “Now he’s got a decision to make.”
The chamber has been at a standstill since Oct 3, when a small group of Republicans ousted Kevin McCarthy from the speaker’s chair, leaving lawmakers unable to respond to the eruption of war in the Middle East and a possible partial government shutdown less than a month away.
Earlier in the day, Mr Jordan had suggested that Republicans vote to extend the authority of Representative Patrick McHenry, who is serving as acting speaker.
House Democrats and the White House have said they are open to that idea, but many Republicans rejected it. “At this point, we’re not going to have any kind of other resolution on this,” said Republican Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer.
The House’s leadership vacuum has prevented Congress from acting on urgent legislative business.
Democratic President Joe Biden is expected to ask Congress in a primetime Thursday night speech to approve as much as US$60 billion (S$82 billion) for Ukraine and US$10 billion for Israel.
Mr Jordan in two votes this week failed to secure the 217 votes needed to claim the speaker’s gavel as he has faced opposition from Democrats and some Republicans.
‘BULLY AS THE SPEAKER’
Republicans who have voted against Mr Jordan the first two times have predicted he will also fail on a third vote. They cited differences on taxes and spending and accused him of undercutting the leadership bid of No 2 House Republican Steve Scalise last week. Others have objected to harassing phone calls and even death threats from his supporters.
One of those, Representative Drew Ferguson, said in a statement on Thursday: “The House Republican Conference does not need a bully as the speaker.”
The prolonged leadership battle has laid bare divisions among Republicans who control the chamber by a narrow 221-212 margin. Investors say the turmoil on Capitol Hill is also contributing to market volatility.
Mr McCarthy was ousted after reaching a deal with Democrats on Sept 30 to keep the government open. Hardline Republicans objected to his move to pass a bill that needed Democratic votes to get over the line.
While Mr McCarthy was the first speaker in US history to be voted out by his caucus, the last two Republicans to hold the job also left office early under pressure from the right.
Mr Jordan has made his name in Washington as a leader of a hard-right faction that has exercised enormous influence this year, bringing Washington to the edge of default and the brink of a government shutdown in a budget-cutting drive that has had limited success so far.
His backers say he would be an effective fighter for conservative policies in a town where Democrats control the Senate and the White House.
Unlike other leaders in Congress, Mr Jordan built his profile as an uncompromising advocate for the party’s right-wing, clashing with Republicans and Democrats alike.
He encouraged government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018 and was a “significant player” in Mr Trump’s attempts to overturn Mr Biden’s 2020 election win, according to a congressional investigation.
He is helping to lead an impeachment investigation of Mr Biden that has so far failed to find evidence of wrongdoing by the President. REUTERS